I haven’t posted much about Ferguson because honestly I’m speechless. I just don’t even know what to say about the world I’m raising my children in. A world where an unarmed black man is shot multiple times in cold blood and then has his name slung through the mud in an effort to justify his murder.
I just keep picturing my sweet Jones, laid out dead in the street, his body laid bare for all the world to see for hours and hours. And I wonder…where ARE we? In some uncivilized, barbaric country where we don’t understand that HE WAS A PERSON?! If that was a white boy, in a school uniform, would the police have left him there as people took pictures and videos of him and his brains spewed out on the street? Are we animals that we would treat someone with so much indignity?
I’m afraid. I’m afraid that the justice gap is too insurmountable. I’m afraid that Jones is going to get pulled over for a traffic ticket one day and end up being accosted, in the back of a cop car, or dead. How do I teach my son that he deserves respect while at the same time teaching him how to submit to, what should be a trusted authority figure, in order to save his own life?
Because here’s the thing – Jones loves to play the tough guy. He loves to punch and wrestle and kick and play hard. But really? Jones is a giant teddy bear. He gets his feelings hurt more easily than any of the other kids. He needs to be cuddled several times a day. He still cries when I drop him off at school – big giant tears that make me want to cry, too. And a lot of times he fights because he doesn’t know how to cope with his emotions. He feels backed into a corner and lashes out. But when the dust settles and I pull him aside, he weeps and it’s heartbreaking.
But this side of Jones? This deeply feeling, sensitive side? This side that feels overwhelmed easily by authority? No man with a badge that pulls him over for speeding will ever know about him. And I’m afraid that he will be dehumanized immediately because his skin is darker than theirs.
John and I were talking about how horrified we were last night and he said, “I just keep picturing Jac and Jones stealing a candy bar at a gas station and running out the front door. Jac runs right and Jones runs left. Jac ends up arrested and Jones ends up dead.”
This can’t be America.
I feel paralyzed. I cannot even imagine the suffering of Michael Brown’s family. I want to help, to fight the injustices that work to oppress entire people groups. But the job feels too big. How do we engage a Ferguson world in 2014?
There are a lot of ways to get involved – to speak up for the marginalized. To give financially to organizations actively fighting for minorities to get equal pay, equal opportunities. To make a new friend, one that doesn’t look like you – and actually LISTEN to them.
But at the end of the day – the first step is admitting you have a problem. Let’s call a spade a spade people. We have a deeply seated racial bias in this country. One that’s not going to get better until we each start to recognize the subtle ways that we ourselves profile people based on the color of their skin.
Can I challenge you? The next time you’re in a conversation and someone says something (even unintentional) that sounds even a little like racism – could you speak up? Could you ask that person what they mean? Could you challenge those around you to rise above this kind of pervasive, subtle ignorance? I wonder what would have happened if someone had challenged Darren Wilson in one of these types of conversations. I wonder if he would have thought twice about unloading his gun into an 18 year old boy last Saturday.
I’m afraid and overwhelmed. But as MLK said…
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
Please don’t look other way. For the sake of all of our children.