That’s what I have to keep telling myself as I stumble for the right words to say about Ferguson.
Have you heard of it? I hope so. (If not, here are some facts) My instinct is to be silent and let others speak, but something tells me I can’t. Even if I say things poorly, my own discomfort in speaking up is much less significant than the problem at hand.
We can’t deny that things are wrong with this country and the situation in Ferguson only amplifies it. Some people blame it on the overreaching government, some on racism (overt and institutional).
Whatever you blame, it is a problem.
It’s a problem that the police force and government have so much influence on innocent civilians lives.
It’s problem that black people have to worry about whether any incident (or even crime against them) is because they’re black or just a fluke.
It’s a problem that just chilling out isn’t an option because of all of the underlying history and systems that bring us down would still exist.
We can’t just forget about it.
Ferguson brings up questions about racism, profiling, government, police, freedom, privilege, justice, and a multitude of other things.
And we should be thinking about them.
Especially if you’re white. Or you don’t ever encounter racism. Or you think racism isn’t a thing. Or you think the government only does good things.
Read about it. Think about it.
If you’re white, moving forward in a positive way after Ferguson isn’t about you. It won’t make your life easier to talk about racism and systems of privilege, but we can’t just ignore the many many voices of our fellow citizens who are saying there are problems in this country that happen based on skin tone.
If you’re white, it’s easier to take racism on a case by case basis and say oh, that must have been an unusual situation. But then the studies show otherwise. It’s easy to take things we get/earn for granted and assume that everyone has the same experience. It’s easy to say people have been racist to you, too. It’s easy to ignore the problem and move on with life.
Because it’s not about you. It just isn’t. Nothing could change and your life would be fine.
It’s harder to speak up and say: “Wow. That is a problem. I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. What can I do?”
We can’t keep sidelining other people’s stories because they don’t line up with our own experiences, or because admitting their validity makes us uncomfortable with our own identity.
Whatever we think the problem is, it’s not really the time to point fingers or argue hot button issues.
We need to hear the stories, resist the urge to mitigate the experience, and then stand alongside.
It’s not about us.
It’s time to step beside so the future doesn’t stay the same.
We can process our own reaction on our own time and it may take a while to really come to grips with what is going on. It will take grace to admit we can’t know and understand perfectly. It will take time to form opinions – and then more to really be able to support those opinions – but, in the meantime, we can listen, we can stand up and use our voices to at least mention the distress in another’s story, and we can lean into the discomfort caused by the search of answers and justice.
We can’t ignore those stories.
Things need to change.
But we need to listen and acknowledge before we can act or speak.
Here’s a good list of resources for this situation and learning about racial reconciliation in general.
What has been going through your head as you watch these events play out? Do you think silence can be misunderstood as condoning things you don’t agree with?
How many barrels of worms have I opened up?