Tabs

11.26.2014

"God 4-gives, We DON'T"-- And there in lies the problem....


"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Well, Ferguson happened. The tear gas has been deployed, the shops looted and burned, the fragile economy further crippled, schools closed, the streets littered with the remnants and reminders of the rioters and armed police officers.

Today, the city of Ferguson is smoldering. Eighty individuals, approximately 60 local to Ferguson, find themselves in jail. Ferguson business owners, both those of color and those who are white, are reeling from the financial loss they have experienced due to the riots. More families have been hurt. More young futures have been altered. More anger created.

And Michael Brown is still dead.

The split screen news coverage the other night after the announcement of the grand jury's decision to "no bill" Officer Darren Wilson was disturbing. On one side of the screen you had our Dear Leader, Barack Hussein Obama, America's first black president addressing the nation, calling for calm and peaceful demonstrations. On the other side of the screen, we watched as angry protesters threw glass bottles and rocks at stationary police officers and media, as they turned police cars over, broke windows, looted local businesses and vandalized personal property.

The side by side, split screen coverage portrayed a strange irony.

The passion of our first black president scolding our country for our racial shortcomings and continued injustice toward a community of misunderstood, mistreated and unfairly targeted minorities. Reminding us that people of color aren't "making all of this up". Briefly pointing to the fact that, in his own life, he has witnessed tremendous change and improvement in the equality of races. And then returning to his main point, that some in our country are "justifiably upset with the grand jury's decision". Justifiably upset. Did Obama think that would serve as a calming statement? His inflection suggested that he himself was disappointed by the grand jury's decision. I have said it before and I will say it again, our Dear Leader stokes the flames of the racial fire that burns within areas of this nation. He throws fuel on the ashes of the race war and uses unfortunate circumstances to further his personal and political agenda. Mr. President, your speech was condescending and unhelpful.  

All the while, the split screen news footage showed the city of Ferguson under siege. The streets were filled with tear gas clouds and angry mobs. The rioters, in full view of the police and media and world, openly broke the law. There was no fear on their faces as they raced into shop fronts and convenience stores. They were not cowering to the "big, bad, racial-profiling police officers" as they threw bottles and rocks at law enforcement personnel. Like Michael Brown, these rioters were thumbing their noses at the rule of law and daring the police force to try and stop them. 

Two nights ago, during the riots that followed the grand jury's decision, it didn't matter if the rioters were black, white or Hispanic. The cops didn't arrest 80 people because of their skin tone. No, they arrested them because they were violating the law. And as uncomfortable as it is for me to say and for some of you to hear, on August 9th of this year, Officer Wilson attempted to arrest a criminally behaving Michael Brown--not because he was black or wearing a red baseball cap or yellow socks and a white t-shirt. Mr. Brown became a suspect that fateful night because he violated the law. Mr. Brown's criminal, aggressive behavior escalated what would have been a routine arrest.

The President said during his address the other night that, "[Finally,] we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates."

"Poor communities with higher crime rates." At some point, the individuals living within these communities must stand up and take responsibility for their lives, their families, their futures. They can't continue to blame white cops, white teachers, white people in general for the state of their communities and their families. The change, the justice, the economic improvement must begin within. Just as no one can completely help right the wrongs in my life, in my family, in my finances; the individuals desiring change must rise up and begin the process for themselves. Once the foundation has been laid, once the families and communities have done what others are incapable of doing for them, society as a whole will come alongside them. We will rally around them and support them fully. But we can't take the first step for Ferguson and the other, fragile communities like them.

Yesterday morning I watched the press conference held by the Brown Family. The first attorney who spoke concluded his remarks with this sentiment--and I'm paraphrasing, "Michael Brown's dead body cries out from the grave for justice." Seriously? That is the message the black community wants to send? Michael Brown was an 18 year old young man. He was an adult in the eyes of the law and in our society. He was accountable for his actions and behavior. He made his choice that night.

This is a terribly tragic case. It was a no-win from the moment it began. There are so many issues of distrust and racism on both sides. White people are no more racially motivated than our black counterparts. I have precious friends of color that I adore. I don't see their color, I see them. And I hope when they look at me, they see me, not my pale, pasty white skin, sprinkled with sun and age spots and my bleached blond hair.

Until we as a society move past outward appearances and begin to base our opinions of each others on our integrity, merit and heart, we are doomed to be plagued with not only racism but all kinds of destructive prejudices. Until we begin to see each other with eternal eyes, we will always be blinded by our dark pasts and imperfect nows. As a society, we have a vision and forgiveness problem.

Forgiveness. Yeah, that terribly tricky, horribly uncomfortable part of life that is a very difficult to understand. And the act of forgiveness is a huge, monumental feat for most--in fact, it is quite impossible for some. Our human nature tends to focus us on how wounded we are and how wronged we've been. We often times cannot move into the realm of forgiveness because we never depart from the pain. We hold tightly to the things and moments and people in our lives that we deem responsible for our unhappiness. Their treacherous behavior consumes our thoughts and directs our minds. We become exactly what they accused us of being because we allow them to define us. It's a vicious, deadly cycle--that of offense and bitterness and unforgiveness.

But, as followers and believers in Jesus Christ, we are commanded to forgive. Not forget, but absolutely forgive. It isn't optional. It isn't conditional. Scripture doesn't specify the sins that qualify for forgiveness. So please allow me to speak plainly: Slavery was a terrible, terrible thing. Segregation was awful and equally destructive. Those seasons in our nation's history are dark, embarrassing and tragic.

But those times are over. I have never owned a slave. My parents never owned a slave. My grandparents never owned a slave. All that we have, we worked very hard to obtain and didn't secure it on the backs or through the forced labor of any other person. I have repeatedly condemned the actions of my ancestors and been clear that I am ashamed of the barbaric reality that existed generations ago that blemished our nation's goodness. Yes, America messed up. Yes, white people were wrong and mean and oppressive during those eras. But today, those adjectives don't describe the vast majority of white Americans.

And I know this might come across as harsh but I will not spend my life apologizing for something I didn't do. Just like the black people living in America today shouldn't spend their precious lives being defined by something that never happened to them or their parents. I don't hate white men for my historical oppression as a woman. I don't begrudge black men because they obtained the right to vote prior to women. I am thankful for the here and now. I am mindful of the past and thankful for those who fought before me. But their plight doesn't define me. Their lack doesn't make my bounty any less sweet. The people who fought for civil rights and women's rights and all sorts of social change are heroes and should be afforded a place in our history. Their fight was a worthy fight and I am grateful for the sacrifices they made.

But here is the reality: our nation will never recover and move past racism until both sides let go. Our nation will never be the bastion of equality it could be until people on both sides of this debate stop feeling victimized. Until there is forgiveness for slavery, there will always be racism. Until there is forgiveness for Jim Crow, there will always be racism. Until there is forgiveness for segregation, there will always be racism. Until blacks forgive whites, there will always be racism.

I know many who read this are going to be hurt, angry and will completely disagree with my sentiments. Trust me, I am preparing for the on-slot of hate mail. But please know my heart, I have close, dear, amazing blacks friends and an incredible nephew from Africa that I always consider when I discuss or write about race relations. This has been a difficult issue for me. Ferguson has been a hard thing for me to watch. It has been gut-wrenching for me, so I can only imagine the heartache experienced by so many in the black community.

Michael Brown's death was a tragic, tragic reminder of what is wrong in our country and this world: We are all sinners drowning in a fallen world. We are consumed with hatred and apathy, deceit and anger. We are broken people.

And brokenness has sharp, deadly edges.

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