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Friday, August 15, 2014

I have to tell you something

I've been trying to write something coherent and meaningful about Mike Brown and Ferguson, Missouri. I keep failing. I think it's because what I need to write is painful. My heart is so broken over all of this. Not just for Mike Brown. It's broken over Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Jonathan Ferrell. And many, many others. I think of their mothers, their families. The value of their lives, now lost. Oh how I can't stop thinking about their mothers.

I have to tell you something: I have three children. Two sons and a daughter. One of my sons is white, the other is black (he was adopted). It breaks my heart that, based on statistics and research, and on the countless number of actual incidents of oppression in our society, the future looks much brighter for one of my sons than it does the other.

I have to tell you that my white son, no matter how he is dressed, is so unlikely to be shot while walking down the street that my brain doesn't even register any fear about it.  But my black child? I already fear it. Legitimately. In my very own neighborhood, a few years ago, someone called the police because a group of black teens were walking down the street. The compliant? Suspicious strolling. The boys live here. They were walking in their own neighborhood. I live in a Stand Your Ground state. This terrifies me.

I have to tell you that should my boys grow up and make some poor choices, my black son is 30% more likely to wind up in jail for the same crime as his brother. Statistically, my white son is five times more likely to use drugs than my black son yet my black son is ten times more likely to be sent to jail on a drug offense. That is so ridiculous it is almost funny. Almost.

I have to tell you that should, heaven-forbid, either of my boys be shot or harmed and the news decided to cover it, the photo chosen to represent each one would be vastly different. My white son would likely be portrayed by the media in his nice clothes, a graduation cap and gown, or maybe a sports photo.  My black son's photo is more likely to be menacing, or lazy, lying on the couch, holding up his hands, as if in a gang sign.

I have to tell you that my white son is more likely to be hired for a fabulous job than his brother, regardless of intelligence or achievement.

I have to tell you that I live in a culture where my white son's life is more valued than the life of his black brother.

I cried writing that sentence. I had to stop typing. Head over the keyboard, suppressing sobs kind of crying.

This has to stop. Please don't tell me I am over-reacting. Please don't tell our black community that this is an "isolated incident" or that they are being oversensitive. Listen to the stories, believe the eye-witnesses. Black lives have value, their voices speak truth.  We have well-documented research that shows racial bias in our culture. It exists. It is real.

These are Howard University students just after Mike Brown's murder. It's my most favorite photo I've seen this week.  I think it's beautifully, heart-wrenchingly poignant.  According to eyewitness accounts, Mike Brown was standing, compliant, with his arms up when he was shot and killed. He must have looked like these students:

Be honest with yourself for a moment. Do you see menace? Does this picture trigger fear? We have to look deep, find our biases and work to eradicate them.

I have to tell you, I have to confess that as a white person, it took having a black child to move me towards true advocacy. I didn't believe I was racist, but I was all too willing to look the other way, to feel sad about events but stay out of them. I was complicit in my non-action. That is racism.

I have to tell you, this won't stop on its own. We have to stand together. This is not a "black issue."  We need to stop the over-militarization of our police so that our police officers no longer view the community as the enemy.  This is not a "police officers are bad" issue. The racial bias in our police force is a reflection of the racial bias in our culture. It's just that their interactions turn deadly. There does need to be focus there.

How to get started? What can we do? Read these two articles on how to be a white ally:


And if you live in Greensboro, stay tuned. We have a ball rolling - there will be some opportunities coming up soon to be more involved.

I have to tell you I stand with the black community. I believe the stories of racism and oppression. And I will not be complicit in my silence. Too many innocent young men have been murdered because of the color of their skin. Enough.

I have to tell you I am praying for change. I'm praying that grief and outrage will fill my friends' hearts and that they will be so uncomfortable that they have to DO something. As mothers, we need to protect our sons. All of them.  As humans, we need to protect each other. I pray that by the time my boys are old enough to be viewed by the justice system as adults, enough change has come that they will both be judged fairly by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. And I deeply regret the part I played in the fact that that day has not yet come.

3 comments:

  1. Oh...this made me nauseous to read....because I know it to be so damn true. I felt every key stroke and every fear for my beautiful 4 year old great-nephew and all the others. I may not get to Greensboro until September 2015....but I'm 'in' for whatever opportunity path you pick and until then will continue to read and pursue here....best love always, Auntie

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  2. i love you. and i am sobbing. and I am feeling SOOOOO convicted of my own sin and prejudices...they are deep, deep down, but I am finding them and they've just GOT to go. I am preaching tomorrow in Charlotte...I am talking about this...it is VERY uncomfortable for me, but it feels right and prophetic and God's call, and I'm rambling now. I say all that to say thank you for this and for being you and for challenging and inspiring and encouraging me.

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    1. I will be praying and praying for you as you preach tomorrow!!! Oh how I wish I could come hear you!!! Please let me know if it is recorded!!! Love to you, my friend!

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