Ferguson.

No justice no peaceYou probably don’t want or need me to weigh in on the Ferguson issue, but you’re going to get it anyway.  You know I tend to steer pretty clear of politically polarizing issues here on my blog, in order to continue having an online voice that can speak into the lives of my really diverse family of friends.  I like it that way.

But this situation cuts deep in my soul.

I don’t have any friends or family who live in Ferguson.  I’ve not spoken to anybody that has experienced what is going on there personally.  I am completely at the mercy of news reporting (television, print, online, editorials, and every other blogger on the world wide web).  All of my information comes second, third, or even fourth-hand.

And it all comes with interpretation and opinion…and bias.

As I sift through all the degrees of commentary on what happened, I’m confident of this:  Michael Brown shouldn’t have died that day.  It didn’t have to end that way.

I don’t know Michael Brown.  His friends and family paint him as good boy. Not perfect, but certainly not deserving of being shot and killed.

I don’t know the police officer.  His friends and co-workers paint him as a good civil servant who was just doing his job the best he could.

The evidence being reported is conflicting and confusing.  I suspect the real truth about both of their characters lies somewhere to the left of their advocate’s beliefs.  The lenses they are looking through are filtered in different ways.

I have my opinion of what happened in Ferguson and why it happened, but it is only speculation.  I wasn’t there.  Nothing I could say would be based on first-hand knowledge.  But here are some things I can comment on first hand:

I was raised in a multi-ethnic community.  Growing up, my friends were Mexican, Black, Samoan, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Native American and White.  Although we all recognized our cultural differences, respect for other people groups was poured into the foundation of my life.  As I got older, I learned that was not true for most people.

In high school and college, I heard, with my own ears, rude and derogatory joking and stereotyping of ethnic groups by white “friends”.  It always made me sick to my stomach.  Often, it ended in conflict, because I would seldom let the joking go unchallenged.  What they were saying hurt ME.  I could only imagine how the objects of their joking would have felt.

I know that whites are not the only people that speak poorly of other groups and nationalities.  Racism and prejudice is not confined to my heritage, although I have seldom been the object of such judgment to my face.

In my life, I know I have had the experiences of receiving special favor because of my skin color, while my friend of another color did not receive the same treatment.  The bias associated with skin color appeared to be the only influencing factor.  This is first-hand knowledge.

My first full-time job was in a low-income, multi-ethnic neighborhood boys club.

I worked and lived for ten years in an upper-middle class, privileged, suburban, affluent church and community.

Later, we moved our young family back to a community where the public elementary school my boys attended was less than 10% white and more lower income than I had ever experienced inside the borders of the U.S.  We worked and walked and breathed side by side with people of color and people of humble means every day of our lives for nearly five years.

I listened to their stories.  I felt their pain.  I worked to relieve suffering and undermine the injustice I witnessed with my own eyes.  I saw how forgotten the schools in our neighborhood were.  I watched as the more affluent (and largely white) schools…in the same “unified” school district…received better everything.

I saw how poverty destroyed families, blurred ethics, influenced politics, ravaged health, crippled education, robbed self esteem and extinguished hope.  I saw the division between the have’s and the have not’s.  Many of these were my friends who had names and stories I knew intimately.

I see, first-hand, the same thing happening at the local middle school in the neighborhood I live in right now.  I see racial tension and ethnic judgment and cultural bias most every day.  I don’t have to read about it online.  I don’t have to watch CNN or Fox News to get their neutral news reporting.  I can experience it any time I want to rub elbows with people who are different that me.  And so can you.

No.  I don’t know exactly what happened in Ferguson.  I never will.  But I know well the environment that gives birth to such tragedy.   I am acquainted with the sin of prejudice and injustice.  Racial tension has existed since the beginning of different ethnic groups.

Black.  White.  Brown.

Jew.  Gentile.

Racism is deep in the soul of humanity.

As a kingdom-first kind of guy, I happen to believe that Jesus died on the cross to break down the dividing walls of hostility that exist between people.  First for the Jew and Gentile, but it doesn’t end there.  We are to seek justice wherever it is not flowing freely.  We are always to find ourselves falling on the side of the less-fortunate.  Jesus always did.

We are to be known as peacemakers.  That is our title.  That is what we are to be about.

I know this works.

I have experienced it first-hand.

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7 thoughts on “Ferguson.

  1. Do you think that the illegals that are pouring in, are thanking those that have now concentrated their comments towards Ferguson and Robin Williams?

    The biggest take away I have from this incident –
    White people that have adopted black children are going to have to explain one day why they are going to get stopped by cops for no reason. They will have convince the authority they did nothing wrong. Possibly flash their College ID to convince someone they are a good citizen.

    I wonder how the conversation will go with anything other than saying, “Suck it up”

    Do you think anyone of color cares what white people think in times like this? I don’t

  2. Padre: I agree with some of the sentiment but you know me I can’t let things go unchallenged. It is not in my nature.

    I think you are making a very large leap without all of the information that Michael Brown’s death was anything about race. Granted, the events since have been about nothing but.

    I will state up front that what happened to Michael Brown was tragic. I agree with you that he should have not died that day. That said, from everything I have learned so far the person most responsible for Michael Brown’s death was Michael Brown.

    We can be emotional about things and talk about how tragic it was but we cannot come to any conclusions through emotion. We must look at the facts.

    1. Video evidence shows that Michael Brown committed a strong arm robbery at a local quick trip, manhandling a clerk while stealing some cigars.

    2. A short time later, Officer Wilson drove up behind Michael Brown and his friend walking in the middle of the street. He told them to get out of the street and drove on past the two young men when he heard the call about the QT robbery and the assailant matched the description of the young man he just encountered, Michael Brown.

    3. He reversed down the street to approach Michael Brown. As he attempted to get out of his SUV, Michael Brown tried to force the door of the vehicle closed. A struggle ensued and it has been widely report that the officer and Michael Brown struggled in the car.

    4. Office Wilson has reported that Michael Brown was reaching for the gun and in the scuffle the gun discharged inside the car. The sound would have likely seriously disoriented both individuals and at some point Michael Brown left the vehicle and started to flee. (Somewhere in this melee the officer’s orbital bone in his eye socket was fractured.)

    5. 11 or 12 different people have backed up the officers story that at some point Michael turned and rushed back at the officer result in the fatal gunshot wounds. Michael Brown was not shot in the back as many people have been claiming).

    Those facts are pretty much undisputed at this point.

    From everything I see in this case, Michael Brown made the choices that led to his death that day. The officer was clearly in self defense mode and once his gun was discharged in an apparent attempt to take it from him, his training would have him use deadly force to stop the attacks on him and possibly the general public. Had Michael Brown not been the aggressor from the outset and submitted to the officers instructions, he would still be alive today.

    Both participants lives were inexorably altered that day. I don’t believe it had anything to do with race. It is just tragic.

    Equally tragic are the race baiters on both sides that would attempt to further divide us as a country. People like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Rush Limbaugh et al just use it to profit off that division.

    1. Sean…

      Pretty much expected a response from you! I appreciate and agree with some of your observations, also. And I’ll push back a little.

      I agree. Michael Brown always had a choice, until he was killed. At any point, he could have walked away or obeyed the officer.

      I also agree that emotion is ruling this situation. On every side. I hope you don’t feel my post was an emotional reaction.

      Here’s a push back…not to be argumentative, but just to say where I’m coming from. I might have others at a later time.

      For me, nothing about this drama is obvious,clear cut, or undisputed. I wish it were. I have read (and listened to) dozens of sources. They all come with bias. I’m not throwing stones here. It’s just the way it is.

      (Even “obvious” video clips. They lack sound. They usually lack context. The whole story is never played out in a snippet or a 911 call or smartphone angle. The same goes for interviews with so-called witnesses. We never know the motive or bent that a witness has. This is just an inherent problem with playing out reality in the media.)

      Nobody reads the Bible without some built in bias…coming from heritage, denomination, previous teaching and personal experience. Nobody can read it with a completely clean slate. Me included. But I always try my best to be open to different interpretations, as long as they come from credible sources.

      If feel it is similar when trying to interpret culture, history, or any kind of current event. When I am not personally present in the situation (to have a first hand commentary), I depend on news sources. In this situation, when I have read or listened to CNN (and other more liberal/progressive sources), I get one story. When I have read or listened to Fox News (and other more conservative sources), its like I’m looking at a completely different story. The stories, commentary, interpretation and emphasis are as different as night and day.

      And both “sides” are totally confident in their analysis and see the other “side” as manipulative, biased, and unfair. It’s crazy.

      Since I trust neither side (source of information) to be trustworthy and above reproach, I am forced to leave room that there is more to the story than what is being told. I gather you have more trust in your sources than I do! Hah.

      BTW, I just read 40 FBI investigators arrived in Ferguson yesterday, to find out the truth. CNN and Fox News are both reporting this, so it MUST be true! I assume they are there because there is still some confusion about what actually happened. Or maybe they are there as political posturing. I guess it depends on which news source you trust.

  3. I dont understand exactly why THIS situation is about race. I think it does an injustice to the still very present problem of race that exists.

    There are so many instances that could be used that illustrates that the social scale is not level for the races. You cited many in your post. I guess I just feel your post would have been more effective if it had just been about the injustice that people suffering through as opposed to a really unfortunate issue of a police officer doing his job, being attacked and ultimately having to use deadly force to protect himself and the public.

    He wasnt a criminal because of his skin color. He was a criminal because he assaulted and robbed a law abiding store owner.

    He wasnt profiled and asked not to walk in the street because of his skin. Its the law!

    The officer didnt react to being attacked differently because of his attackers race. I feel pretty secure in the thought that is the guy was attacking him he didnt make a choice on using deadly force based on skin color. The outcome would have been the same regardless of race!

    Its unfortunate that so many still hold onto the ignorance that any of us are better than any one else because of skin color, social class or religion. I just think all of us would be much better off discussing the issues of race on its own merits and not dragging a criminal whose own actions brought on this unfortunate outcome not his skin color.

  4. One last thing, when they show the picture of victims these days, why is it always a darling picture from the 4th grade? Next time, I think the media should get the sonogram pic of the victim. You
    can’t look more innocent.

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