A few things about me:
- I am a fifty-one year old, African American, college-educated, post-civil-rights working male.
- I am the husband of one wife, the father of two children, and we co-own a duplex with a like-minded family in an up-and-coming Oakland neighborhood.
- I am a Christian that works for an evangelical organization that seeks to love college students and faculty, in all of their ethnic/cultural diversity.
- I love (and am loved by) my wife, my children, my friends, my neighborhood, and the Lord.
- I generally feel at home in my neighborhood, my city, and my country and am treated well; occasionally however, I feel like a problem or a nuisance here, and a few times I‘ve been treated like a suspect, felon, a criminal, or an unlawful enemy combatant.
- I have my own personal experiences in my neighborhood, city, and country, experiences particular to me and me alone (but not unique to me and me alone). Also, there are broader systemic social and political forces at play, forces that lead to those similar to me (gender and/or ethnicity and/or class and/or living situation) having similar experiences as mine.
Just because of the skin color of my children, they are ten times more likley to be killed or injured by police than their friends of different ethnicities.
The national discussion that has transpired in the months following the August 9th the shooting death of an unarmed Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson is about this particular event...and a lot more. It’s about:
- The (More Recently Militarized) Police and the Black Community: there is very long-standing dissonance in the relationship between Black peoples and the local police forces. Two decades before Michael Brown, there was Rodney King; before King, there was the Civil Rights Movement; before the Movement, there were the Harlem Riots of the 30’s and 40’s; and so on. By some accounts, unarmed Blacks are killed every four days in the US. Other accounts put the numbers as one every 28 hours. Just because the skin color of my children, they are ten times more likely to be killed or injured in a typical police interaction than their friends of different ethnicities. The Black peoples of Ferguson (and many others from all over the country) are upset about this fatal travesty, and this has got to change.
- Class and Poverty: On the average, middle class whites possess 20 times more wealth than middle class African Americans and 18 times that of middle class Latinos. Whereas the average white family has accumulated $113,149 of wealth, the typical black household has only accumulated $5,677 in wealth. As of 2010, the poverty rate among non-Hispanic whites was 9.9%, whereas the poverty rate among African Americans was 27.4%. By some accounts, the poor and disenfranchised in Ferguson targeted with the “"illegal and harmful practices" of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don't pay. This basically means that the poor are being funneled towards our prison industrial complex just because they’re poor.
And the list of what it’s about goes on...
- Equal Justice
- Voice In a Voiceless Situation
- The Right to Protest Peacefully
- And So On...
Our Christian Response to Ferguson
My son, Arthur.
According to the Bible, the Creator made all things good, and we, the Created, were meant to find our worship, praise, and meaning as we lived and breathed in God’s state of shalom (absence of war, presence of peace; in harmony with God, all people, and all of creation).
Sadly, we left that state a long time ago: the challenges, travesties, and injustices that we see in Ferguson today are because systemic evil; people are hurting because of it, and my Jesus wants me and others to pursue peace, restoration, justice, and reconciliation to make things better.
Usually this activity is done by Black people, some other peoples of color, and a few allies from the White community. And there is always another group of peoples just looking in via the news and social media. This time, however, there seems to be peoples and communities from many ethnicities and cultures (and in InterVarsity) standing against this wrong and marching/talking/crying out for what’s right. I am gladly surprised by this change, and look forward to the positive results that will come from the involvement of all of us.
Don't lose hope. Don't get stuck. Don't fall asleep.
I will not include too many more links and lengthy pastoral encouragements – others smarter and wiser than I have already communicated this. But I just want to encourage you:
- To know that the pain you feel and the frustration you see in Ferguson is shared by a lot of people.
- To know that it’s not just the Black people in Ferguson (and in the United States), but to ALL of us are directly and negatively effected by these systemic evils.
- To take the time to put “arms” on your/our pain and “legs” on your/our frustration, and to DO the local and national action that will bring the kind of peace, restoration, justice, and reconciliation that God wants for all people. (If you're not sure what to do, ask others about what some of those steps may be for you.)
- To not lose hope, to not get stuck, and to not fall asleep – gather with like-minded folks around you and DO your part.
[And if you ask me, I will tell you what I’m doing in my community to “put arms and legs” on my pain/frustration, and how like-minded people in my community are seeking to do our part.]
 Prison industrial complex: “the rapid expansion of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies.” Instead of prisons primarily being places where prisoners both pay their dues to society and experience rehabilitation, they become investments where businesses make money that expand our country’s economy: prisoners become the punished “commodity” that helps businesses make money.