Thursday, August 21, 2014

why Michael Brown and Ferguson matter

I don't want to write about this. I don't want to talk about this.  But it demands attention, because the world is waking up to the fact that unfortunately, racism is alive and well. Some may shake their heads at the thought that anyone could truly believe it was gone. As a child, I was fascinated with Martin Luther King, Jr. I loved learning about him and others who propelled the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and transformed the landscape of American history. My heart is so heavy. My eyes are so tired from weeping..

And yet I had the understanding that because of my brown skin, people may treat me differently. Sure, I grew up in the suburbs. Most of my friends were white growing up and still are today. But any person of color can tell you that they know what it is to be profiled or judged based on their appearance. Any person of color can tell you about when someone has called them a racial slur and laughed it off, thinking that it was "just a joke."

How can this be? What kind of world are we creating for the children we are raising and educating? Why is it that people are obsessed with the "safe" news? People are upset about persecuted Christians in Iraq, the millions of babies who are aborted each year, and the endangered species that need "saving." But when an innocent, unarmed, African American young man is gunned down in the street? They turn and look the other way.

{via NBC news}
People do this because it is easy. It is comfortable. Throughout the past couple weeks, I have been unable to sleep and have cried many tears as I think about the world we now live in. We have tried to pretend that racism is not real. We have tried to pretend like we do not "see color." We have tried to joke about race relations and just say that we're all the same. But it is in times like these that we see that as far as we have come, we have a long way to go. We all have pre-conceived notions. Stereotypes and generalizations exist for a reason; they are rooted in some truth. But we have to stop lumping people together in groups that fit the little boxes in our heads.

What saddens me most is that the death of Michael Brown is not the first nor the last of its kind. I cannot even begin to imagine what it is like to be an African American male in the United States today. Say what you want, but they are at the bottom of the totem pole. Read the statistics. Look at corporate America. The majority of those in power are not those with chocolate skin.

My father, Ed Miller, is the most hard-working man I know. I respect him deeply. I love him even more deeply. Why? Because he is honest. He is smart. He is funny. He is kind and generous. And he is an African American man who "breaks the mold." I am proud to call him my father. Would he be stopped in the middle of his day because a cop "just wanted to make sure everything was ok?" I don't know. The thought of it makes my blood run cold. I'd like to say no, because I know that classism is also a real issue, and his class may prevent him from being a victim of racism. But that's another conversation for another day.

Here's where the fear and heartbreak set in: what will become of the sweet little boys I teach who will someday become black men? If I have sons, what kind of world will they live in? Will the world have moved past Ferguson and begun a conversation that has moved us to action? Or will we continue to say what we want to say without listening? Will we continue to exist in stereotypes, unable to move past our judgments and willing to only listen to those who look and think like us?

90 year old Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, arrested during Ferguson protests.
What would Jesus do? A popular saying in the 1990s, but a poignant question for us as we examine our hearts and lives in the wake of crucial days and moments in our nation's history. Jesus said that many who are first will be last, and the last first. How can anyone attempt to justify the death of a young man, whether black, white, purple, or red? If someone dies, their death affects lives upon lives upon lives. In this case, Michael Brown's death has affected millions as they watch what unfolds in Ferguson.

Here's what I know: life matters. People matter. And when we begin to realize that yes, this is a race issue, but even more so, a human issue, maybe we can move towards a conversation that moves us toward action that executes justice. Because God only knows that we need Him to move and compel us to speaking on behalf our brothers and sisters, no matter what they look like.


Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Further reading and listening:

Our Response to Ferguson (Pastor Leonce Crump II)
"To My White People" by Jennie Allen
"This Is What We Mean When We Say It's About Race (To the white person who just doesn't see it)" 
"Affected" by Chookooloonks
"Black Bodies White Souls" by Austin Channing
"First they came for Black people, and I did not speak out" by Matt Stauffer
"America Is Not For Black People" by Greg Howard
"A white cop, a black kid, and a crime" by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
"How These Righteous Religious Leaders in Ferguson Are Giving Us Hope" by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush


4 comments:

  1. Thank you for this...I am heartbroken over what this great injustice has revealed about our nation and the hearts of believers and my own ignorance. God be merciful...move to reconcile and to heal...

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    1. Yes, it is heartbreaking and so sad to think about. I think what moves me most is thinking of the future for our children. But God...two of the most powerful words in the Bible. But God is on His throne!

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  2. I'm so glad you linked up with Week's End so I could find this post. Your writing is beautiful and heartbreaking. Everything about Michael Brown's murder and the aftermath in Ferguson is heartbreaking. I hope it's okay for me to share your post on social media. More people need to read this. I also plan on reading the links you included after work.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, of course you can share it! Thanks for taking the time to read it!

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