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'It's kind of like open season on the African American male'

Clergyman says real issue is flaw in judicial system

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a series of five in which Will County black male pastors respond to the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

What happened to George Floyd is not simply an issue in the black community, according to Calvin Quarles, pastor of the Church of Bolingbrook.

Far too many people are troubled by it, he said.

“When you get to the point and place where you’ve got pastors, and even pacifists, that are upset and angry about these matters, then it’s time for change; it’s time we start doing something differently,” Quarles said.

Quarles said the real issue is the flaw in the judicial system, particularly as it relates to certain police officers who abuse their authority. He feels the problem is systemic and cultural.

He’s tired of vigilantes “who go out and shoot a man who’s jogging down the street” or women calling the police to accuse a black man of assault simply because he asked her to put a dog on a leash, he said.

“For me, it’s kind of like open season on the African American male,” Quarles said. “And we have to stand up and address the issues.”

That said, Quarles does not condone looting or rioting in the name of justice.

“Those things are not going to bring about the change we’re looking for,” Quarles said. “I think as a pastor and leader you’ve got to be wiling to say to the community and these participants in these events, ‘Let’s not add to the problem. We need to address our judicial system. We need to address our police and legal system. Going out and burning houses down, burning down honest businesses, is not going to solve the problem.’”

Quarles fears some businesses will not survive the vandalism and looting. He recalled what happened in Joliet during the 1960s “with the death of Dr. King, when Chicago Street was on fire.”

“Many of those businesses never came back,” Quarles said. “A thriving community was wiped out.”

Quarles understands many are angry. Even God doesn’t condemn righteous anger. But the Bible says, “to be angry and sin not,” Quarles said. Evil certainly exists, but one can’t use the weapons of the enemy (i.e. Satan) to bring out positive change.

“So the question becomes now, ‘How do we address those issues?’” Quarles said.

For Quarles, the problem is the lack of a “single voice of leadership that provides insight and direction” on how to rectify a troubled court system, he said.

Quarles knows change can happen because much change happened with the Civil Rights Movement, he said.

But Quarles also feels the church, too, needs to assume leadership. When non-violent people start feeling as if they need to protect themselves, change needs to happen, he added.

“We better do something quickly,” he said.

Quarles stressed that all police officers aren’t bad.

“I know many good Christian honest sincere police officers,” Quarles said. “We’ve had them in our churches; we’ve got them in our community, so I respect and honor them. But I am also concerned that, in many cases, police cover for police.”

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