“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”. Elie Wiesel
I posted this quote on my Facebook wall following the grand jury’s decision not to indict in Ferguson, MO. I needed to say something but unsure of what needed to be said. There were many others that had more information than I. Many who spoke more eloquently. Many are speaking but I’m still not sure what progress we are making. Of course, I disagree with much of what is being said and agree whole heartedly with much of what is being said. I don’t consider my voice to be more important than others but as Elie Wiesel points out silence does nothing to help the suffering and humiliated.
I still struggle about what more can be said. We know what the problem is…it’s dangerous to be a person of color in America. People of color have daily challenges and struggles with which Anglos cannot even identify. Whether it is white privilege or blindness or inability to focus because of so much injustice in the world that gets in the way of real systemic change I cannot say. Perhaps, it’s all of those and more. It is not uncommon for the police force to not reflect the demographics of the community in which they serve; how was this a factor?
I believe there are others who are better equipped to speak to the changes needed to truly live in a society of equality and justice in the U.S. However, what I cannot get off my mind is the conflicting information about what actually happened. I also don’t know how much of that conflicting information the grand jury was given when making their decision; I understand their purpose to be to determine whether or not there is probable cause. If we cut the process short we not only lose the opportunity to hear all the voices but we lose the opportunity to talk about the situation and circumstances that brought these two men to this moment and to speak to the issues of killing a person who is by many accounts already surrendering.
Where is the place to have a discussion of police training or racism or fear, for that matter? Where is the discussion of why this young man’s actions were so threatening that the officer’s response was to take a fatal shot? There is no way we can know what the result of a jury trial would have been but my concern is that the process was not allowed to continue to completion so that all are heard and justice is done. Are we afraid of shedding light on these dark places?
One of the main reasons I remain a Disciple of Christ is the belief that even when we disagree, we stay at the table…we talk, we debate, we argue…but we have the conversation. I suppose this understanding paints the outline for my societal interactions as well…why must we be afraid to hear all the information? Why can’t we have the conversation?
A learning moment for me was realizing that when things like this happen…things like the Ferguson, MO refusal to indict or the Eric Garner case in New York….I am stunned, but my friends of color are no longer stunned…saddened but not stunned. White people and people of color experience a very different America.
May we pray that God will open our eyes and guide us to be the people God created us to be…brothers and sisters together…living in peace and with justice for everyone. May we be willing to work toward that end.
Hear our prayer, O God.