Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unrest in Ferguson: What Are We To Do?

One week ago Saturday, 18 year old Michael Brown was killed by a policeman in Ferguson (in St. Louis County).  I've been watching the news, which was first local in St. Louis and has now become national.  Even PBS and NPR (my go to news organizations) are covering it.  Yet another young, unarmed black man has been killed in our streets.  I grieve his death.  With his family, I also grieve the violence and looting that some people have perpetrated in that St. Louis suburb.

I was grateful to see so many clergy, especially Episcopalians whom I know, march in the streets Thursday in a peaceful protest.  Our bishop, Wayne Smith, was there.  The dean of our Cathedral, Mike Kinman, was there.  I also spotted my friend, the Rev. Marc Smith, there.

With the kind of national attention this is receiving, I assume all black people in Jefferson City are also aware of what's happening in Ferguson. I want to share a bit personal reflection. 

I run errands on Saturdays.  I generally don't pay much attention to anyone I encounter, unless I happen to know them personally. I am focused on my tasks. 

As I ran my errands around town today, a weird thing happened.  Of course, I encountered black people on High Street when I went to lunch downtown and in the stores where I shopped.  I found myself making a point to nod and smile at the black people today.  While I was waiting at a stoplight near home, a group of 8 or so black children [some on bicycles and some on foot] started crossing the street in front of me "against the light" just before the light turned green.  I smiled and gave them a wave, rather than being peeved and asserting my right to proceed the moment "my" light turned green.  

Because of what's happening in Ferguson, I felt a special need to acknowledge them all as persons.  And I probably wanted my nods and smiles today to convey "I'm not one of Those People."  Maybe these were empty gestures of White Guilt.  I don't know.  But I feel that people who enjoy White Privilege [and there's no doubt it exists, and I benefit from it] must do something to express our common humanity with black folks, many of whom surely must be wondering afresh who is "friend" or "foe." 

I know that's not enough.  But I'm too far from St. Louis to march with the peaceful people in Ferguson.  What can a person here do to express solidarity with the people of Ferguson? More particularly, what can someone like me do to express outrage that unarmed black people are gunned down in our streets?  

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Blogger Lisa Fox said...

My friends, I encourage you to listen to (and not just read) the sermon The Rev. Michael Kinman preached at the Episcopal Christ Church Cathedral today in downtown St. Louis. It's at Mike has been my friend for a long time. But this is the finest sermon I've heard in ages. To my ear, he distills the spirits of MLK & Desmond Tutu to the horrible situation now unfolding in Ferguson, in the St. Louis suburbs.

8/17/2014 4:59 PM  

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