The title says it all. This week there was another death. Another life. Another accusation. Another investigation. Another mob. Another riot. Another car burned. Another city shutdown. Another curfew. Another iconic picture with police officers and civilians. Another hashtag. Another media frenzy. Another crying mother. Another stain in this chapter of humanity.
And, of course, another white guy talking about how race problems should be handled.
Which is my way of saying that there’s no need, no want, no desire, no necessity, no justification, no reason for me to speak regarding this issue. Social media doesn’t need more noise. The internet doesn’t need another status update and another hashtag.
So I can’t (shouldn’t) speak.
But I can listen.
I can ask. And I can listen.
I can ask: “what’s your story?”
I can ask: “how have you been hurt?”
I can ask: “where have you experienced injustice?”
Asking. And listening.
Not judging. Not diagnosing. Not fixing.
Because maybe riots are lawsuits from people who can’t find a lawyer. Be that because of prejudice, poverty or pride. Maybe riots are proclamations from people who have no microphone. So they have to yell. And scream. And destroy. Just for the chance to be heard.
It doesn’t mean it’s right.
It just means I should listen.
Maybe, just maybe, the road to recovering, mending, healing … maybe that begins with listening. Listening to people who obviously want and need to be heard.
So if you’ve ever been the victim of racial injustice- be you black, Asian, Hispanic, “other” or even white (because- though not as often-it does happen); if you’ve ever felt despised, scared, ignored, stereotyped, helpless, overlooked, unwanted, disregarded or threatened because of the color of your skin, then please…
… just know, that I want to listen.
I want to listen. And I won’t say anything. I’ll just reply so you know I’ve heard it: “Thank you for sharing. Thank you for allowing me to listen. And I’m sorry for your pain.”
Because we don’t need more yelling, noise, shouting, talking or speaking. And we definitely don’t need another suburban, white male talking about solutions to the systematic injustice that is as foreign to him as anything could be.
So I won’t. But I’ll listen.
I’m here. If you want.
One of the numerous things learned as a counselor is that certain emotions are rooted in deeper feelings. One such emotion is anger. Anger is rarely the root of the issue; more often than not, anger is an expression of hurt, loss or disappointment. In other words, anger is rarely the core problem but acts as a red flag for deeper pain.
We must remember this when we examine the current events in Ferguson.
On Monday night, a grand jury decided not to press criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, a black 18 year-old male, earlier this year. Previous to the decision, local and national authorities urged for a peaceful reaction from citizens. Nonetheless, the decision sparked widespread violence in the town; protesters fired guns into the air, burned and looted local shops and attacked police barricades. Within hours over 29 arrests had been made in what one police chief called the “worst night” of violence since the shooting on August 9.
Social media, inevitably, has also erupted, mostly in indictment against the protestors. “They should be ashamed of themselves,” one commenter said. “This is crazy and utterly ridiculous …. You wanna whine about how you are treated …. Look at how you are acting!” another noted. Others referred to the protestors as “animals” and stated that the “black community only cares about a black life when its taken by a white person” arguing that this shows “who the real racists are.” Many invoked the judgement of God in their statements, noting that “God is not happy with the world right now.”
But judgement against the events in Ferguson, both the decision of the grand jury and the subsequent protests, is the wrong response. What we are seeing on our TVs, news feeds and magazine covers is not anger but hurt, deep, rooted and pervasive hurt. In no way does this excuse the subsequent actions; but to write off these riots as immature or poorly-controlled anger is neither helpful nor wise.
The African-American community living within our own borders is one that has suffered grave and undeniable injustice through the history of our nation. And this suffering has created a strong bond of community, a thread of continuity that runs through black communities within our borders. The sense of community is foreign to many white people who’s family history does not contain the type of subjugation and dehumanization that necessitates such communal bonds. We cannot understand this; and we certainly shouldn’t judge it.
And to argue whether or not racism still exists is another discussion, but to deny that it has existed in horrific and scarring ways in our nation’s past is not just ignorant, but deeply insensitive. And recently a black community suffered the loss of one of their own at the hands of white authority. At the very least, this tragedy was like ripping the stitches from a gaping wound that has only just begun to heal; it will prompt even the best patient to scream and try and hit their doctor. At worst, it was history repeating itself, horribly.
Which is not to say that violence is a right or just reaction to injustice. But to assert that only black people act in such a way is ignorant of the log in our own eye. Following the tragedy of 9/11, most of the country screamed for vindication and provided overwhelming support for a ‘War on Terror’ to bring justice to the terrorists. This war has cost our nation billions of dollars and thousands of lives; to say nothing of civilian collateral halfway across the world. And now the same populace that called this war “heroic” is calling down judgement on a community reeling from tragedy, resorting to violence as a vent for anger.
We cannot understand, but we should try.
Because the pain of racism is real. The pain of the injustices of our past, injustices of our present, are real, bitter and destructive.
And we’re seeing this pain exhibited, justice being attempted, through chaos in Ferguson, Missouri.
So when we look upon the events of Missouri, let us look with eyes that see through the violence, beyond the anger; not to justify it, but to empathize, to understand, to be united in their suffering. Let us not look in judgement, in condemnation, but with hearts that break with the community. Let our hearts break for the business owners who lost their livelihood, for the families who face terror in their communities, for the children caught in the cross-fire and for a neighborhood of people who are exactly like us: hurting human-beings, prone to anger in their pain.
And so, if we must say something, I think it should be a prayer; if we are going to utter words in response to this event, then let us petition God for the sake of Ferguson and for us all: