The grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson following the death of Michael Brown. Last night, after the grand jury's announcement, peaceful protests quickly turned into violence, arson, and looting.
It breaks my heart to see.
As the family of Michael Brown and the President of the United States ask for peace and change and this is what we see. However, it is important to note that this does not mean most African Americans are involved in the looting. Not at all.
Yet, the looting itself is repugnant in more than one way. It will cause many to lose property and some may lose their lives. However, it may also cause many to say, “See, this is what happens with those people.”
Even more, we need to be careful about our discussion of "facts." Bryan Loritts says, "Facts are a first and last resort in a court of law, but when it comes to human relationships, let us first stop and feel before we go to facts."
Please do not be one of those people who ignore the hurt. You would not do that in your interpersonal relationships, so don't do that in our national conversation.
The point is not to ignore or devalue facts in a specific instance, but to recognize that, in all relationships, there are other issues to also consider.
Every right-minded person I know condemns riots, and every right-minded person should also still learn from this entire situation. Officer Wilson was not indicted. That is done. The facts have been in dispute, but now a mixed-race grand jury has heard them and they have made their decision. So, part of this moment is over. But it is not all over.
My exhortation is that of my several African American leaders I asked to share in my "It's Time to Listen" series back in August. Listen to the voices of these scripture loving, godly, evangelical African American leaders.
Over the years I’ve been challenged by my white brothers and sisters to just "get over" this. Their refusal to attempt to see things from my ethnically different perspective is a subtle, stinging form of racism. What’s more is that it hinders true Christian unity and fellowship within the beloved body of Christ.
We will never experience true Christian unity when one ethnicity demands of another that we keep silent about our pain and travails. The way forward is not an appeal to the facts as a first resort. Rathewr, we should attempt to get inside each others skin as best as we can to feel what they feel, and understand it. Tragedies like Ferguson are like MRIs that reveal the hurt that still lingers. The chasm that exists between ethnicities can only be traversed if we move past facts and get into feelings.
If you sense exasperation from we African-Americans over yet another news story of a black man slain at the hands of a white man, this is a wonderful opportunity to grab some coffee and seek to understand our hearts. I need my white brothers to know how I felt as I sat in the preaching classes in Bible college and seminary not once hearing examples of great African-American preachers. I need you to know how I felt when I was forced face down on the hard asphalt of Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, all because I was nineteen and driving my pastor’s Lexus, a year after the 1993 Rodney King riots. I need you to ask how Ifelt when I walked into a Target recently behind a white woman who took one look at me and pulled her purse tightly to her.
Pastor Philip Fletcher shares his thoughts as well:
The events in Ferguson—including the death of Michael Brown, riots, excessive force, and outside agitation—remind us about the reality of sin and its effects. While details continue to come out and a grand jury begins to convene to examine evidence, we have to step back and grieve. I cannot fathom the pain and frustration the Brown family experiences because a son and heir will no longer sit at the dinner table, talk about his first year of college, or have kids.
This is the fear and effect of sin that all families must confront at various stages of life. None of us are exempt. We have to grieve because we must once again address racism in reaction to an event. I am honestly frustrated that the death of this young African American by law enforcement appears to be the only impetus for this discussion on addressing issues of race. I personally wrestle with the fact that, after years of seeking to promote the relevance of the Gospel upon social justice issues in my own ministry, it takes the death of another young man to cause evangelicals to speak, tweet, and write.
Why is that?
What makes this death different from that of Trayvon Martin, Francisco Trujillo, or the hundreds of young African American men who die each week through violence? We must grieve because this discussion on race tends to divide men and women, revealing the idolatry of our own ethnic distinctions. Racism is not a sin specific to Caucasians.
Finally, African American and former police officer Stacy Hilliard talks about perspective and outlines a possible way forward:
The problem is that each part of me creates a different perspective. Communities like Ferguson run into problems when they cannot understand how each group of people (police officers and African-Americans) see events like this differently.
While racism does exist among police officers, I don’t think it’s the driving force behind these tragic shootings. The driving force behind these incidents is not racism— it’s perspective! The varying perspectives at the heart of this tragedy are based, in large part, on false perceptions.
Too many encounters between young African-American males and white law enforcement officers are rooted in false perceptions that have created an unhealthy perspective on both sides. I believe that much of this is due to conversations that were meant to serve as solutions being centered on the wrong focal point: race.
My hope is that as we move into the holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving later this week, we will take a moment with our friends and family to pray for the people of Ferguson, Missouri, and people everywhere in our country who feel oppressed and unjustly treated. Might we love them with the sacrificial, unconditional love of Jesus.