I saw this picture from a friend on Facebook and just couldn’t resist putting it up and talking about it:
The issues of Ferguson, MO, and race are, like so many issues slapping us around today, far more complicated than the bumper sticker answers we usually have. They are even far more complicated that the meme I just posted.
What is needed is a conversation.
Just as I tried to post something earlier about mental health for discussion, the reactions were mixed. I loved hearing from people who actually read my post, but then there were some who didn’t read it and then saw a reaction I gave on Facebook to another post and instantly they didn’t care to look up what I said before. We did NOT have a conversation.
When it comes to race, I am fairly sure we STILL won’t have a conversation, but I will keep on posting.
The high school in my community is incredibly and wonderfully diverse. There are only pluralities of nationalities and ethnic demographics. There is a long list of what our school district does right, which I will reserve to pull out later when someone gets on here and gives me some comment that bashes diversity. ;)
A few years ago our high school basketball team made it to the state tournament for the first time in decades. We made the finals. Against an all white team. Our corner of the arena was packed with all kinds of ethnic representation and we were loud… all… the … time. It drove the proper white folk mad in the other corner. The things I read on comment pages later (like the sports pages online) were atrocious. The description of our behavior made one think it was a visit to the zoo.
What was completely ironic was the other team’s supporters felt they had the moral high ground. They cheered at “appropriate” times, apparently. And when they didn’t like a ref’s call, they chanted “BULLSH*T! BULLSH*T!” in perfect four part harmony.
There was a “proper” way to cheer a team… and an “animal” way to cheer a team. By the way, the “proper” team won… as they “should.”
What we too often get upset about is reaction. How we react ethnically, regionally, etc., is just DIFFERENT.
It is at this point you are ready to quit and head to the comment section and talk about it’s never appropriate to riot. So… just stop. I promise if that is what you head out to do I WILL delete that comment! In the love of Jesus, of course. ;)
I am not talking about rioting. I am not talking about looting.
I AM talking about those very key moments that lead up to those explosive moments.
AND I am talking about what is “proper” in white contexts and what is “not” and how often we just simply MISS IT.
Thus the picture at the top of this post. Smashing in a store window and grabbing Kit Kats and beer is wrong. Raiding a company’s assets and then letting the stock crash is “BUSINESS.”
It’s context. One is “proper” and one is “not.” (Don’t you DARE start in on that “looting is wrong” comment… hear me out!)
The fact is this: BOTH are wrong. We just don’t call it that way. Why? Because one had a black guy with his pants halfway down his rear and one had a white man in a suit.
Okay… NOW go rant and beat on me.
The cheering in the basketball arena was RIGHT. BOTH were RIGHT. Well… they were “okay.” I’m not in favor of yelling “BULLSH*T” at a ref, no matter how bad the call was.
Looting in a neighborhood grocery or on Wall Street are both EVIL.
So, let me ask you this: Which one will go to jail?
THIS is what we don’t want to talk about. The incredible unevenness of a system. As whites, we don’t like some of the “corrections,” like affirmative action.
But we just holler about that and don’t THINK about the consequences of things we have set up. The New Jim Crow is a book that radically changed my thinking. I paid attention to the long statistical data. I don’t agree with some of the solutions… but the data disturbs me. It disturbs me as a white man. Not a wealthy white man. I struggle, but those are my issues.
Some may not even look at that book because a black woman wrote it. I am not trying to be a white man ridden with guilt. I am trying to be a Christian who longs to understand justice.
And I am also trying desperately to understand cultural reactions and how a few key moments and some THINKING could really defuse a situation and things like Ferguson, MO, just don’t need to happen.
For me, things go back to the steps of my junior high. I had a kid who just decided he didn’t like me. It’s easy not to like me, but I hadn’t heard his reasons and he didn’t care to tell me. He had been taunting me for weeks, trying to draw me into a fight. He would taunt me and laugh in front of his friends trying to get me mad at something, and I just wasn’t responding.
One morning he decided to notch it up and really draw me into a fight. I was starting to walk up the steps to the front entrance and out of nowhere came a foot. He gave me a high leg kick and his foot landed square on my chest. It knocked the wind out of me and I have no idea how I stayed standing up.
As soon as he kicked, he stepped out in front of me, fists raised. It was like it was out of a TV show. The crowd backed up, made a circle, and watched. I was a nerd. There was no way I was going to make it out of that fight.
As he stood there ready to spring into action, somehow I got enough breath back to look at him and say, “Do you feel better now?” and I walked past him and went up the stairs. He said something that mocked me and laughed, then walked away. I was so glad he didn’t just jump me and beat the crap out of me.
We all have choices in incredibly tense situations. A gentle answer does NOT always turn away wrath… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the discipline to at least attempt it.
There are conversations to be had… even if it elevates to yelling at times…
I don’t always like loud reactions… but I can’t let it deter me from trying to listen. I myself give LOUD reactions… and I appreciate people who will get past my yelling and begin to listen.
We can all do better that what has happened to Ferguson, MO. We DO have to give effort, though.
Please help me in that effort.