I’ve been wrestling with the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent violence his death has sparked. I’ve wrestled with whether I should write about it, not write about, open my mouth or keep it shut. After all, I am not black. I’m white – so white that I’d give an albino a run for her money. I have no personal experience with the color of my skin causing people to treat me differently. In the end, though, one thing kept pressing on me and I had to share it, even though, for the first time, I am terrified to hit the publish button on a post.
I want to start by saying my heart weeps for the family and friends of Michael Brown. When I think of his mother, burying him the other day, my own eyes fill with tears because a mother should never have to bury her child. I am a mom. I have sons. I can’t even imagine the depth of her grief.
When I think of an 18 year old young man dying, I am heartbroken because of all the possibilities, of all the potential that died that hot, summer day. No matter what choices he did or didn’t make, now his story is done. He can’t write anymore chapters in it. That is a reason for immense sadness.
While I weep for a life cut short and a mother grieving, I also weep for the rage, the violence, the widening chasm that has yawned between people who happen to have different colors of skin.
The thing is, the facts of the case aren’t clear yet. They rest in the murky waters of vastly different eye witness accounts – one that paints Michael Brown as the victim and one that paints him as the aggressor.
Regardless of which role is correct, I am still deeply grieved that this young man’s life is over. Please make no mistake that every life matters – that includes the person sitting on death row, as well as, the preacher in the pulpit. God is not a respecter of persons. His love covers everyone because in His eyes, none of us is good enough. Without Christ, regardless if we have a rap sheet or if we’ve received the Woman of the Year Award, we are all headed to hell.
I know that my view of not rushing to judgment isn’t popular right now, but the truth is, I wasn’t there. I only have conflicting eye witnesses who tell very different stories. I don’t know the witnesses personally either, so making a judgment call as to who is telling the truth and who isn’t is impossible for me.
I hesitate to even type these words, mostly because I worry about what my friends will think of me. Will they label me racist because I won’t make a judgment call? Will they think I am making excuses for the inexcusable? I hope not.
Michael Brown is only the latest casualty in the growing racial war that is building in our country, and that is what I weep over the most. The chasm of racial divide that is swallowing innocent victims while people on both sides shake their fists and rage at each other.
The thing is, there IS something – or should I say SOMEONE – who can bridge this gap. His name is Jesus and to Him every single life is precious. Every single life was worth dying for.
Jesus loves Michael Brown, but He also loves the cop who shot him.
As I have watched hatred boil over into violence, all I can think is that at least believers should behave differently, but we don’t.
We should have truth between us, but we don’t. We are all afraid of speaking the truth for fear it weakens us or gives credence to “the other side” or somehow makes wrongs okay. It doesn’t. God tells us that the truth sets us free. It is satan that is the father of lies.
The black community is frustrated, angry and scared. Moms with teenage and young adult sons fear for their children’s lives. The fear is real, and it grieves me so much that they have to live with that fear. There is a serious mistrust of the very police officers who are meant to protect. This mistrust because of the actions of a few paints an impression that ALL police officers are racist bullies and are to be feared. That just isn’t true.
White people feel defensive and frustrated, fearful of speaking about any of this because nobody wants that hated label racist pinned on his chest. We fear offending someone or inadvertently sticking our foot so far in our mouth we end up choking on it.
Michael Brown’s death highlights that there is a very serious problem in this country. As much as I want to believe the days of racism and the ugliness that follows it are over, they aren’t. As a white person, I’m not sure why I have such a hard time admitting that young black men (and women too, I’m sure) deal with being hassled by law enforcement because of their skin color, that racism still exists. Maybe it is because I am afraid of being painted with the same brush, being accused of being a racist by virtue of the color of MY skin. It feels so unfair. And yes, I get the irony of that although I will never really know what that is like.
As much as there is a problem in the white community, there is also an issue in the black community, one that nobody wants to admit or acknowledge – the issues of young black men and crime. While some point the finger at a system that targets young black men, that isn’t the whole story.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, 83 people were killed and that was only 13 more than the previous year. The vast majority of the victims were black, including a 9 year old boy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the perpetrators were also black and much of the violence was gang and drug related. Acknowledging that there is a problem doesn’t make racism or racial profiling okay.
Years ago, when I was in college, I interviewed a young black man who was doing time in a low security prison with the goal of getting out and getting his life back on track. I remember him so clearly. He was a big, beefy guy with these deep chocolate brown eyes. He called me Ma’am even though I think we were about the same age. I will never forget what he told me. He said that law enforcement will never stop the war on drugs because when he was taken off the street there were several dozen other young men just like him who were ready to step into his place. When I asked why that was when it was so very dangerous, he shrugged his big shoulders and said, “Ma’am, nobody expects to make it to 30, and they want to live large while they are here. You aren’t going to make that kind of money working at McDonald’s.”
That was over 20 years ago and things are worse now. There is a problem when a large number of a generation of young men have resigned themselves to a short life and the only hope they have is to live as large as possible before going out in a blaze of violence.
There are problems in both communities and until we within each of those communities are willing to look all the truths squarely in the eye, nothing will change. More young men will die – whether through their own poor choices or the poor choices of others. Either way, it’s a tragedy.
This racial divide has been heavy on my heart for a while now – before I ever heard of Michael Brown. I have prayed and cried over it because it seemed like there were no answers and the divide just keeps getting wider and quite frankly, it breaks my heart.
But you know, we as believers DO have the answer. God brought me to these verses in Ephesians. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross by it having put to death enmity.” Ephesians 2:14-16
What if Michael Brown’s death, instead of a call to violence, hatred and anger, instead called Christians to a unity that shocked the world?
What if we linked arms and stood by each other, instead of against each other?
What if we loved each other the way Jesus loved?
What if we listened and really heard each other instead of reacted?
What if we forgave each other instead of tallying up wrongs?
What if we extended grace instead of holding so tightly to our sense of injustice and unfairness?
In those verses in Ephesians, Paul is talking about the unity of the Gentiles and Jews. It was SO shocking that it caused people to believe Jesus really WAS who He said He was!
These were two groups of people who had such deep seated issues, the idea of them coming together in unity was enough to turn the world upside down.
Loving each other, walking in unity doesn’t mean that wrongs are okay. It doesn’t make racism, in any variety, okay. As my oldest son said to me after watching the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson, puzzlement in his voice, “If you are a Christian, how can you even justify being racist?” I couldn’t agree more.
With the death of Michael Brown, we as believers stand at a cross roads. We can continue down a road that leads to further division, further misunderstanding and deeper distrust, or we can love as Jesus loved.
Which will you choose?