This is me, extending my hand towards Ferguson. (At least, I drafted it with this community in mind. Then it sat for weeks and weeks. I scheduled it before the Eric Garner decision was announced. But I’m too sad, angry and confused to fold thoughts about that into this. So I will let this stay as is.) This is my humble and heartfelt attempt to use my little space of the internet to say something about something that matters.
- Other writers have said and will say better words than me. People who are more qualified and more articulate have expressed more important thoughts than what follows here. I am particularly grateful to the friends who share great links on social media to help us all stay engaged. Reading each one, even if I don’t feel like it, even if it seems redundant, even if I know it’ll get me all riled up, has been one of the most practical things to do these few months.
- #1 does not excuse me from writing. I don’t really want to write. I feel uncomfortable and scared of getting these thoughts wrong. But this is a more-is-more issue—more people need to say what they think, even if what they think is “I agree with so-and-so.” Typically, I have said that I don’t blog about current events. But this is not really about an event. There are many who do think this is all about an incident. I respectfully but ardently disagree.
- I believe we should define our terms in order to have a constructive conversation. Racism is an attitude of superiority over another because of ethnicity or skin color. AND Racism is an action against another because of their ethnicity or skin color. AND Racism is a culturally accepted perspective about a person or group of people based on their skin color. AND Racism is a system that disproportionately affects members of one race and not another. One piece that elaborates on this theme can be found here. Until we are better able to talk to one another with meaningful vocabulary, our conversations will be limited at best and damaging at worst.
- I believe all four of the above definitions, which are by no means comprehensive, are connected to the situation in Ferguson.
- Many white people limit their definition of racism to the first two definitions but not the others. Therefore, if one does not consciously think or feel a sense of superiority or hatred towards people of another race, they are not racist. They want to believe ‘racist’ is something a person is or is not. But racism is a thing a person either supports or fights, and sitting idly on your privilege does the former, even if you don’t mean to.
- Misinterpreting statistics about another race in order to make them seem morally deficient is unacceptable. Whether they be statistics about crime, immigration, education levels, marriage and divorce, or drugs, the appropriate way to interpret data is in light of the whole.
- “The whole” is a several hundred year history. “The whole” is a several hundred year tradition where your brother, father or friend could be killed and you knew you were powerless to fight it, that if you tried you jeopardized your own safety. White people have no idea what it feels like to have a collective history of being constantly vulnerable to harm, constantly powerless. The white narrative has always made sure white lives matter.
- My history and my story are very different from others. Precisely because of that, my moral and Christian responsibility is to listen to the stories of others, to learn from them, and to embrace the validity of their narrative regardless of how similar or different it is from my own. Our pastor made some brief but helpful comments this weekend on the way “dual narrative” relates to reconciliation work.
May the God who took the lead in reconciling us unto himself give us his Spirit to courageously, humbly, compassionately, and sincerely attempt to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters who do not share our narrative.