Random thoughts this morning about what is going on and what it might mean……..
First, I don’t know any concrete details in terms of what happened or who did what in Ferguson. So I’m not going to attempt to express opinions on any of the details on who did what, was it valid, was there a better outcome. I don’t know.
But I do know that there is substantial evidence that throughout our country that there are significant differences between how people of color are treated compared to white people.
A white teenager wearing a hoodie with headphones in walks into a convenience store shortly before midnight. No one thinks twice.
A black teenager wearing a hoodie with headphones in walks into a convenience store shortly before midnight. The clerk puts his hand on the “emergency” button and the other patrons leave as quickly as possible.
A white man is pulled over for speeding. After review of registration, insurance and license, he’s given a ticket and sent on his way.
A black man is pulled over for speeding. After a review of the same documents, the police officer asks the speeder to step out of the car and runs a variety of tests to determine potential alcohol content and examines the inside of the car in more detail.
Does this happen all of the time? Absolutely not. But what Ferguson does show is that this is an ongoing problem and it’s a problem that is probably more wide spread than those “in power” would like to admit.
So what does it all mean? Let me throw a couple of ideas out there:
- Parents need to have conversations with their children about the importance of treating everyone the same and not drawing conclusions based on race, based on color, based on the type of clothes someone is wearing.
- Parents of black children, especially black boys, especially teenage black boys, have to have more detailed and unfair conversations with them. Conversations with them about how they need to hold themselves to a higher standard. Conversations about how people will draw conclusions about them based on how they dress – and they almost certainly won’t be positive conclusions. Conversations about how a black 14 year old with an airsoft gun will be perceived significantly differently if that 14 year old is white.
- Churches need to be more awake and communicative about the message they send to their community. Is it a message of inclusion no matter what color, what style of clothes or what music someone listens to? Or is it a message of exclusivity – if you aren’t white and you don’t drive a nice car, well………
- The government – first, I want to say that I have the utmost respect for those who are police and keep our streets safe. They have to make instant decisions and they put their lives on the line for us every day. But I think it’s obvious that our government has some work to do yet on training and teaching their people how to make the right decisions and to do it in a more racially equal way.
I’ve read a number of reports that have said that white people who don’t have black friends feel that racism is not a problem. White people who have black friends feel that racism is still an issue. Black people feel that racism is still an issue. In other words, if you don’t see it or experience it, then you don’t know it’s still there. Not saying that is the fault of the white people who don’t have black friends (though it might be for some). It’s just the way that it is right now.
And it’s not acceptable. It shouldn’t be acceptable to the church, it shouldn’t be acceptable to the schools, it shouldn’t be acceptable to the government.
One other thought – why are people burning and looting and being violent in Ferguson? I’m sure there are some of them who are doing it just to cause trouble. But what about most of them?
It’s because they have lost faith in “their” government to keep them safe. They have lost faith in “their” government to protect their “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They have lost faith in “their” government to protect “freedom” of speech.
We need to make changes to restore their faith in our system and our country.
Because Ferguson is more than just the case of what happened to one police officer and one teenager. Ferguson is the story of what is hidden under a lot of American life.
And what’s hidden underneath is not pretty.