I really suck at talking about hard issues. I often feel like I don’t know enough or understand enough to weigh in on big topics, and so I sit back and listen to other, smarter, more experienced people talk.
Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Another black boy killed. His body lay in the street for four hours. Folks are upset, because it’s really upsetting, and there’s a group of people exercising the right to protest.
I stayed up half the night on Wednesday glued to #Ferguson on Twitter. I read every article, every tweet, and watched a live feed from the protest. I watched as police lobbed tear gas into a crowd of people standing with their arms up or folded peacefully in front of them. I watched tear gas canisters explode in people’s yards in a neighborhood. I listened as I heard police tell people to stop filming. I read tweets from journalists taken to jail.
I kinda kept waiting for the smart people to speak up. The people smarter than me who understand stuff more.
I guess now I’m sitting at my blog thinking, well, I guess I will, from my own limited, humble perspective, because I keep running into people who have no idea what I’m talking about. There are police officers with armored vehicles and guns and tear gas standing off with protesters in the middle of our country and I’m not sure that everyone knows.
I don’t understand everything.
I know there are a lot of really great police officers in this country.
But I also don’t want to just turn away from what sure looks like systemic injustice.
I’m a white mom who had never thought about privilege until the day I tried to buy my black daughter a doll at Target. I’ll never forget that moment, standing side-by-side with another mom, a black mom, and both of us looking for black dolls in an aisle of white. How could I never have noticed that my world was designed for people who look like me?
I’ve learned where and how to shop. I’ve found the books and dolls and hair things.
And in all that time of learning how to fix my daughter’s hair and reinforcing her image as the perfect view of beauty so that she will grow up strong and proud, I’ve also spent my days learning about being black in my country. Because who cares if she has good hair if she has to live afraid?
I can never experience it. I can never truly understand. But I can listen. I can ask. I can submit, bend my ear, and hear.
I have to, for the sake of my daughter, but also for the sake of all humans. It should not have taken our adoption to open my eyes to inequality. We all must learn to listen, no matter what color our kids are.
In college, on my predominantly white campus, I asked my RA, who was black, about her experience as an African-American, and she and her boyfriend came over and shared with me about a lifetime of people locking car doors when they came by, being pulled over by police, needing to show their hands, women clutching their purses just a little tighter when they walked past. Her boyfriend in particular explained to me the inherent danger in being black and male.
I hadn’t understood. I asked questions. My mouth dropped open.
Last night following the Ferguson protest and reading up on the recent deaths of black males at the hands of police, I felt helpless. I prayed. I read.
I have no idea how to help right now, except to say THIS ISN’T RIGHT. We need change.
Black men of America, we see you, and we want better for you.
Black mamas of America, solidarity. I can never be in your shoes, but I’d like to walk with you, to stand beside you.
It comes down to this. How can I champion my friends in Uganda as they work to overcome a lifetime of injustice and violence and turn a blind eye to the injustice and violence happening in my own country?
So I pray for Ferguson.
Lord, we beg for true justice that can only come through You. We plead for peace that doesn’t come from silence but from healing. Pour out Your grace and move in this situation. Let our babies, all our babies, feel loved and equal in Your eyes as well as in the eyes of the law. Where we don’t have the words, give us the words. Where we don’t know the truth, show us the truth. Where we don’t know how to help, move us, use our hands and feet. God, we need You so badly. In the name of Jesus, God, we cry to You, in His name.
I feel…so small…so…not enough to say the big words that make a difference. But maybe if we all put our little words and our big prayers together, maybe we can see things change. We need justice, we need understanding, and we need to heal from these big wounds.
“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:5).
May it be so.
I’m throwing in my white voice just to say listen to black voices, hear them, follow their tweets, and read their stories. If you haven’t kept up on what’s happening, here are some places to go:
Article about black men in America
Osheta’s Shalom in the City post
Ali Barthwell’s vulnerable post
image from kuow.org