Why I Don’t “Get” Ferguson

photo credit: ajagendorf25 via photo pin cc (image cropped for use)
photo credit: ajagendorf25 via photopin cc (image cropped for use)

I’ve been concerned this past week after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the following protests and violence. As a Christian – and like many persons of faith – I struggle when there is violence, and there is surely violence in Ferguson. And so I pray for peace.

The truth is, I cannot understand what is going on in Ferguson. I don’t believe that I ever will understand what is happening in Ferguson. I don’t think I’m capable. I’m not there.

I am a straight white middle-class U.S. citizen.

I’ve never been an African American. I can’t know what it’s like to have ancestors who were bought and sold as slaves. I can’t know what it’s like to be disliked or even despised because of my heritage or the color of my skin.

And I lived in the Heartland for three years. I’ve seen racism with my own eyes, yes even in this 21st century.

Am I saying that the shooting of Michael Brown was racially motivated? No. I am absolutely not saying that. I can’t know that. I am not in Darren Wilson’s head. No one can know what he was thinking in that moment except him.

I’m saying I can’t know what it’s like to be an African American living in a place where sometimes people just don’t like black people. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black parent worrying for my black child. I don’t know what it feels like to live in a place where the people who are there to protect me and protect my children and protect my rights look different from me and have fundamentally different experiences of the world than me. Because I think it’s natural to want to be protected by those who understand on the deepest of levels.

And I don’t know what it’s like to grieve a child or a sibling. Thank God. I hope I never do.

I can’t know. I have not walked a mile in those shoes.

And I don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer. I don’t know what it’s like to be an officer serving in a community that looks predominantly different from me, who has different experiences of the world from me, and who may want to be protected by someone who understands better than I do. I don’t know what that’s like.

I don’t know what it’s like to be in a situation where I think my last resort may be to fire my weapon. I don’t know what it’s like to take an action that takes a human life. And I don’t know what it’s like to deal with the questions that – I think – must follow such an action.

I can’t know. I have not walked a mile in those shoes.

What I can guess is this. There is terrible pain in Ferguson, MO. It is a pain that I cannot understand. It is a pain that I pray I will never be able to understand.

And I believe in a God who is bigger than the pain. I believe in a God who is bigger than the grief. I believe in a God who is bigger than the fear and the prejudices and the violence and the politics and the media and the anger and the division.

I believe in a God who calls creation to move beyond the way we separate ourselves. Because we are better in peace than we are in violence. We can move forward in peace, not in violence. We can find justice in peace, not in violence.

And so as I think about Ferguson and its people and its police and its leaders and its sense of community and self, I cannot understand what is happening there. All I can do is pray for peace. And so I do…

One thought on “Why I Don’t “Get” Ferguson

  1. Dear Bob, this is beautifully written and touched me deeply. You are so right when you say we have not walked in anyone else’s shoes, have not known their pain, have not felt the discrimination, the fear, the anger. My heart aches because I cannot do anything to make it better except to pray and I am comforted in knowing that God does hear all our prayers. I pray that justice, healing and forgiveness will prevail and bring peace to the countless places of unrest in our world. Thank you for this sensitive look into a Christians’s viewpoint. Blessings, Maria Sears

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