To My White Evangelical Friends:
While some of you are part of my face-to-face, real-time life, many others are cyber friends that I keep up with through the magic of Facebook. I’m always amazed at the variety of topics you post about – everything from what you ate for dinner (including pictures), to how you spent your summer vacation, to what you think about the crisis in the Middle East. Some of you do the political thing, and some of you don’t. Some quote scriptures, post sermon notes, or flood the internet with pictures of your kids. And of course, there are those ubiquitous cat videos that I admit I’m especially fond of.
The one topic on which you’ve been wholly silent, though, is the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth, by a white police officer, and the subsequent unrest in Ferguson, MO. Generally speaking, you’re not a quiet group, so I’ve been wondering what reasons might exist for your silence about these troubling events.
I admit I’ve also been quiet about the shooting until now, even on this blog, for a few reasons. First, I’ve been waiting to get the facts – what actually happened to Michael Brown? Why was he shot, and what was he doing when he was shot? Even though several eye witnesses have stated that he was standing still with his hands up, I guess I’ve been waiting for forensic information to back up that testimony. Also, I intend my posts to add to the conversation in some unique, significant way and I don’t post until I feel that I’m able to do that.
But here’s the thing – even if we don’t know all the facts, shouldn’t our faith compel us to at least show compassion toward the grieving family? A young man died. Can we express to Michael Brown’s family how very, very sorry we are? Regardless of how events transpired that awful night, I think we can agree that we are sorry a young man died, a family is suffering, and a community is in upheaval. We are sorry for the part we have played in failing at the daunting task of racial reconciliation in this country.
Can we understand the anger of many in the African American community at the idea that their young people are the targets of racial profiling that can lead to violence and death? As a white mom of three boys who have not always behaved perfectly in or outside of our home, I’ve never had to worry that the people who are charged with their protection might be the very ones to hurt my sons. I’ve never had to explain “the rules” to them of how to avoid police violence. Even though I’ve never experienced these things, I can listen to those who have and feel compassion for them.
A few years ago many of you, my white, evangelical friends, stood in unity with a fast food chicken chain’s stance on a social issue. The “likes” were flying all over Facebook (no pun intended, since chickens don’t actually fly). You lined up for hours to buy that chicken and show solidarity with their view. I don’t fault you for that – it was your right to do so. I’m just wondering, though, if we could muster up even a little of that same drive and passion in this situation. Can we offer our sympathy, show our compassion, and pray that truth and justice would prevail for all of us, but especially for our brothers and sisters of color whose experience so differs from our own?