bluelikejazzminds asked a question:
I have a huge concern for this nation. I am outraged, frustrated and hopeless. I don’t know if you are aware but last week, a young man, Mike Brown, was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. He was 17 years old and was about to start college this week. They accused him of stealing candy, but both witnesses and store clerks say he didn’t. Brown actually surrendered but the police shot him 8 times anyway. Unfortunately, there are also riots going on due to the outrage, hurt and sorrow. Police brutality is at all time high and it seems as if hate is a common theme towards young black and brown men of this nation. This is not the first time a young black man was gunned down unlawfully and it definitely won’t be the last. Justice for these young men (and women) have not been served, and if anything are glossed over by celebrity news or other stories to distract the nation.
So I ask you, have any of you thought about this? Do you know what is going on? As a Christian, I want to look to the church for help but it seems that there is silence on these types of issues. Around the time Trayvon Martin was killed, I went to church and nothing was said about it. Not verse, not a word.
As a leader, I ask what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters who were/are affected by these issues? What do you say to a young black man who fears for his life whenever he sees a cop? What do you say to a young black woman whose brother was killed unlawfully by the hands police brutality?
Hey my dear friend: I must say this first of all.
A young man is dead. Not just dead, but shot until he was lifeless.
Before I’m just another ignorant blogger who goes into semantics and politics and the “spiritual lesson” for all this: let’s recognize that another member of our human race, a real living breathing person with hopes and dreams and insecurities like the rest of us, just as real as your brother or sister or parents or math teacher or pastor or coach or best friend, is permanently gone from the world.
I want to grieve about this. I don’t want to turn yet another real person into ammo for my platform or agenda, and God forgive me, I have failed at this so many times.
I want to hurt with Michael Brown’s family. I don’t need to suspect what he was “allegedly” doing, because the fact remains: a young man’s life was cut short, and for every turn of events that led up to his death, it’s still no less than a tragedy.
I know that we will not all see eye-to-eye on the external issues: but can we lay down our verbal weapons and meet each other in our grief over a deceased young man? Can we recognize we’ve lost a member of our human family? And that this keeps happening over and over?
I also agree that the rioting is sad. Some of the physical outrage is perhaps extreme. The whole thing is downright horrible. None of it can be generalized or simplified, and it’s all a bitter ugly mess.
I’m well aware that I’m just one more limited voice in a sea of angry voices, and anything said here could barely uncover the heartache at every level.
What’s more saddening is the racially charged maelstrom on social media from every side. No one speaks rationally about these things. I understand that race and violence and politics are all sensitive issues to discuss, and someone will always be offended. I’ve probably offended you already with something said here. But I’m still waiting to have a thoughtful conversation about it, that maybe there is a sane nuanced voice out there who wants to weep with me, and that maybe we could be part of the solution and not the problem. We don’t have to agree: but maybe this is less about agreement and more about our desire for peace.
Yet everyone is turning this into some kind of philosophical circus, like lives are meant to be debated. I recently posted a picture of a protesting black man in Missouri with guns pointed at him from police with riot gear, and the caption read “Don’t let anyone tell you that racism is not dead. Pray for justice.” When I say justice, I mean to set right all the ways in which we’re not meant to be. I lost quite a few followers on all my social media, including some nasty feedback, and I understand that. It’s okay if you’d like to unfollow me too. But my intention was simply to show: the fact that this picture even exists is tragic. Every part of this hurts my heart, and I’m not trying to “win” some side.
Again: A young man is dead. No one is the winner here.
The fact that a young dead black man would draw so many racist online comments in the year 2014 makes me sick to my stomach. The fact that a group of people feel the need to riot in order to express a deep inconsolable outrage is equally heartbreaking.
No, I do not endorse rioting, as it can be destructive and immature. It also ends too quickly. But the fact that it’s happening is exposing an exhausted fracture in our humanity, beyond our simple categories of “us” versus “them,” to wanting the God-given dignity of living without fear. Simply do some research on the atrocities occurring daily on the streets and in the media, and you would be just as tempted as me to make a forceful stand. It’s absolutely enraging.
A friend recently shared this quote with me by Martin Luther King Jr., who was very much against violence, but he put it this way:
“When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty and shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up and express their anger and frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard.”
Of course, I want to be very careful here that I’m not endorsing violence. I’m not pulling self-victimization. We must examine ourselves too, for change starts with each of us. I will, however, promote protestation for the voice of the silenced. This does NOT automatically mean finger-pointing or victimizing. If this makes me a “bleeding softie liberal” or a “bandwagoner,” then I guess I’ll bleed with the band. And there’s absolutely a difference between protesting for a purpose and mindless rioting (though they both point to the deeper systemic problem), and every media outlet has portrayed whichever pictures fits their narrative. What’s most interesting is that we’ll cheer for protesting when it comes to the fictional characters of movies or books or for the rights that we enjoy, but we mock with generalizations when it comes to a group we don’t care to understand. It’s okay for the cast of The Hunger Games, but not by real starving impoverished families of young dead men.
To answer your final questions:
- “As a leader, I ask what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters who were/are affected by these issues?”
I’m not sure what words could suffice. There are so many words already, just pages upon pages of drivel. Perhaps I just want to listen, to hear you, to know you.
- “What do you say to a young black man who fears for his life whenever he sees a cop? What do you say to a young black woman whose brother was killed unlawfully by the hands police brutality?”
Here’s a quick story. One of my best friends Andre is a wonderful black gentleman who’s going to be one of my groomsman. About ten years ago, when I tried to kill myself with a bottle of pills, he was there for me after I got out of the hospital. For months, he encouraged me and came over and recorded songs with me and took me out to dinner. I owe him my life.
At times we discuss some of these race issues. And from a period of years, the one thing I know is this: that it’s absolutely impossible to know what it’s like to be a black man in America unless you are one. I can’t imagine the fear he lives with, the anxiety when he walks into a store and everyone thinks he’s stealing, the looks he got when he dated a non-black person, the constant paranoia of police officers who eyeball him all over. Of course he’s well aware that everyone is capable of racism, including himself. But racism affects everyone differently: and it’s not some abstract political issue for him.
To some degree, I can understand as an Asian that he and I are never on an equal ground with non-minorities because of that invisible unspoken wall of race. Yet his hurt is magnified to a level I cannot comprehend. He lives with the secret horror of a racial rape-culture, in which he must take extra precautions on every street corner because a wrong move could get him “legally” killed.
The sad thing here is that I don’t know how to console him. I’m not sure I could even try. I can only hurt with him in the trenches, to hear him out and to be there in his pain, and to never belittle his very real struggle in a world that is often mad. Yet still, he believes in hope too, for a better world. And that begins with us acknowledging in our homes and churches and streets that this pain is a reality, and we need each other.