At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.
Resources for churches to talk about racism and Ferguson are here.
Conversation Starters for elementary school children:
In Ferguson Missouri, some churches are staying open all night for people who are scared. I wonder how God can help us when we are scared. What do you do when you are scared? Who are the people you can turn to when you are scared?
A lot of people are sad because a young man died. They are sad because they say this shows that our communities aren’t acting fairly and equally to all people. Jesus talked about a different kind of community, shaped by love. I wonder what a community looks like where people are treated equally? I wonder what a community based on equality and full of Jesus’ love would look like? (Consider letting children draw a picture, build with blocks, create a drama/play, write a poem, or create a news story about a community that was operated out of love and equality).
We are starting a time of hope as we look toward Christmas. We all hope for Christmas presents, but what else do we hope for? A lot of people hope that one day, people of every skin color are treated with the same love. Do you hope for this? How can we pray for this? (You can invite the children to make cards and posters of love for those in the community of Ferguson, send them to a local church to the messages get passed along.)
Conversation Starters for Youth:
Many of the leaders in Ferguson are young people. High School students have been standing out in the streets and going to trainings to learn how to keep their fellow protestors peaceful. How do you see youth leading in your community? How do youth keep important discussions alive and point a way forward?
The Presiding Bishop, in her message about Ferguson after the Grand Jury Decision, said that “the racism in this nation is part of our foundation.” How do you see racism present in your community? Do people treat one another as created in the image of God? What do you do to counter racism and other ways people are excluded?
"Stay awake." The first Sunday of Advent centers around the message of being watchful. #StayWoke is currently trending on social media in response to Ferguson. Voices are calling us to #staywoke to the realities of racism, to the suffering in our communities. How could your church help your community to #staywoke? How do we avoid putting this important conversation to bed?
Conversation Starters for Adults:
Isaiah says “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” in the first reading of Advent. How can we expect Christ to come in the midst of conflict? Where do you see signs that the Spirit is moving in the midst of what is happening in Ferguson?
We often use the word “sanctuary” to describe a place in a church building. Some churches in St. Louis are serving as literal sanctuaries, where all who need a break from the violence of the streets are given water, medical attention, and a place to rest. How does your church serve as a sanctuary? How do you give rest and protection to those who need it?
The Very Rev. Mike Kinman, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis has compared the young women and men protesting in the streets of Ferguson to John the Baptist. What is the prophetic possibility in the midst of this conflict? To what new vision of community are we being called?