Let’s continue the commentary, shall we? I wondered if this was too soon in the series to hit this topic, but why not? Let’s talk about being Black in Missouri when Ferguson hit.
Up to that point, watching all of the videos of police issues with the African American community had seemed foreign. It was something that my wife and I talked about in the privacy of our homes, because we dared not offend anyone around us. We knew many police officers, and so we knew that anything we said would get out to someone who knew someone. Not that we ever said anything that was anti law enforcement. We both have been raised to respect and honor those who do their jobs the right way as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our communities. I’ve been pulled over by both Black and White police officers for sometimes going faster than I should. Most of those encounters have been just fine, with me getting a warning and being sent off on my way. When Michael Brown was killed, something in my shifted. What had once been a clear and pristine view of my life in Missouri took on a darker, more urgent feel. Something had happened “on my home turf”.
It hurt. It hurt to not have outlets to talk to about it. It hurt to have to shove my feelings down deep, and continue walking with my head held high, and choose to see the best in everyone while they put up statuses on FB and everywhere else decrying Micheal Brown. I suppose that it was in that instance that I learned the importance of filters. Let me explain.
As a Christian, I am filtered through the word and heart of God. That should be enough, but I am flawed enough to also know that as a Black man in a nation with our history, I have to filter through that experience. That’s not all, though. As a human, I have a filter that causes me to look at people not only through their skin color, but for how well I know them. For instance, there have been several people that I love dearly, who have eaten at my table, who have made statements that have made me livid. While I have had private conversations with some of them. others I have just chosen to look over in the name of civility and love. My filters effect how I view the world, and whereas the Ferguson incident and the subsequent riots hit me deeply, I had to learn to filter, ponder, and release.
I know that there is racism here. I see it. I read it. Even more, though, I know that there are people who are different from me who would take a bullet for my family and me. I know people that I vehemently disagree with on everything except the fact that there is one, true God, and that is enough of an agreement for me to be at peace with them.
Ferguson was a wake-up call to me. It reaffirmed that I was, indeed, a Black man, who while accepted generally, was also not accepted in many spaces. And while it didn’t give me a complex, it did open my eyes. Yet it also had a different outcome. I gained so much respect for the people in my community who spoke up on the behalves of African Americans all over. And while America saw the ugliness of expression of the riots and the clashes between police and the community…while America saw the ugliness of Mizzou and the hunger strike from the young brother who took his opportunity to take a stand, I saw love, openness, compassion, and real tears at just how broken our society is…
But also just how ready many of us, black, white, and others, to see those wounds healed.