I tried to write about Ferguson.
I tried five times. I sat down at my computer, reading and writing, reading and writing. Thinking of conversations I’d had, of classes I’d taken, of what my friends had told me about their experiences, of my own experiences.
I tried five times, but it didn’t work.
I published one piece on this blog but took it down after an hour because I couldn’t escape the feeling that it wasn’t helpful — that I was writing just to write, rather than offering anything truly beneficial. Bloggers, I know, are not supposed to post pieces and then retract them, but I did. It is better that I did.
So why am I writing now?
Because how can anyone be silent about this. Silence about racism is one of the great sins of white culture. It isn’t swept away by being quiet; it doesn’t just dissolve.
I’m learning that. Learning again. Learning anew. Honestly, I’d rather not talk about it because it’s usually upsetting — or we’re upset that we’re not more upset — and because, in a situation like that of Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, and Ferguson, I don’t know what to say.
But too long a silence can easily become a sin of omission.
I’m also writing to note a few things that have risen to the top of my mind over the past few blurry and tumultuous weeks.
1. When you don’t know what to say, you can always listen. In fact, even when you think you do know what to say, still listen. In the wise words of Mark Labberton, “Resist defensiveness or denial, rescue, or tidying it all up. Keep listening — especially to stories of those whose race or ethnicity is not your own. Love starts here.”
Listening helps us not talk too much.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
2. We shouldn’t forget this. We should grow from it.
Whether what happened was racial from the beginning or not, it’s absolutely largely about race now. The country — and by that I mean the people — can’t afford to let the momentum come to nothing.
Some have called this a new civil rights movement, but now in the third week out, most of the discussion, as far as I can see, is fading with waning media interest.
When we look back on this in 20 years, will we remember it as merely a dark moment, or as a national, cultural turning point?
3. We need to imitate Christ. Showing love, grace, mercy. Sharing both hope and the deep, deep pain. This is the most important thing; this is where we should rest before and after the mess of contradiction, confusion, and uncertainty.
Both Michael Brown and Darren Wilson are human beings, so they are our brothers. Red, yellow, black, and white, they are precious to God, and should be precious to us. Let’s show grace, understanding, love. Let’s be peacemakers. Let’s pray for everyone involved.
Pray for enemies. Pray for brothers. Pray for those who would be brothers.
Pray for comfort and healing — of people, families, communities, souls.
Pray that somehow this fire would refine and not destroy.
Pray for justice. Let it roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.
Prayer brings clarity. It brings humility. It brings strength. It brings compassion. So pray.