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Michael Brown is an African-American male; Darren Wilson, the sequestered police officer who killed Brown, is a white male.  In our current context, this forces the discussion topic to be about ‘race relations.’ In other words, this incident between Brown and Wilson has forced St. Louisians and yea, citizens of this great country to grapple with race once again.  One thing is certain: we don’t live in a post-racial society.  In fact, many scholars have noted that race relations are bit more strained because Obama is in the White House. Just ponder the irony of that statement: a Black man is in the White house and yet race relations are a bit more strained in this country.  Back to this statement: this incident, whether folks want to admit it or not, has forced us once again to grapple with issues related to race.  For instance, what comments have you spoken in your heart (in secret) or out loud about the recent events in Ferguson, MO?  Here are some comments that are unhelpful:

  1. “Brown deserved what was coming to him. He was better dead than alive.”
  2. “All white police officers are racists.”
  3. “All white people are racists.”
  4. “All blacks are shiftless and lazy and simply want a hand out.”
  5. Comments beginning with “those people…
  6. “Dang, what’s the big deal about an African-American male being killed?”
  7. “Blacks are animals and uncivilized.”
  8. “All white police officers are trigger happy.”
  9. “This ain’t my problem.  I got mine, you get yours.”
  10. “It is best that they stay there with their kind; and we stay here with our kind.”
  11. “I have a black friend.”
  12. “Those people have gotten themselves into this fine mess.”

 

Here are some comments or reactions or responses that are helpful:

  1. “Race is a social construct.” And as such, we need to seriously ‘deconstruct’ and put it back together again.
  2. “Whites in general have good relations with white police officers; why is it so different with blacks?”
  3. “I desire for the sake of all human beings that true truth will emerge in this case as this is the pathway for justice to be achieved.”
  4. “What could I do to serve this family and the Ferguson community and the police?”
  5. “A mom and dad have lost their son (they cannot fuss at their son, they cannot hug their son); we should mourn with this family.”
  6. “What privileges do I enjoy that I might share with the underprivileged?” Or “what social capital can I share with those on the fringes of society?” “How can I use my advantage to give others access to opportunities?” [Most blacks are not looking for an easy way; but rather access to opportunities.  A fellow white female engineer once to me, “Luke, you are different.” I replied, “I am not different, I only had opportunities that many blacks were not afforded.]
  7. “Is there something about regularity of such encounters between blacks and white police officers that warrants my dutiful investigation?”
  8. “We must allow the justice system to do its due diligence.”  I, for one, don’t want any short cuts.
  9. “Everyone is my neighbor.” (The Christian is to love his neighbor as himself.)
  10. “I need to take time to listen to the stories of others and not paint all people of a particular race as the same.”
  11. “We must denounce criminal behavior such as looting and rioting and those who wish to disobey the curfew.”
  12. “This young man, like all people regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. is part of one human family.”  We are brothers and sisters!  The Black-Eyed Peas (now considered ‘old school’) recognized our familial connection in their “One Tribe” rap song.  Consider these lyrics (my commentary is in bold type).  According to this multi-ethnic quartet, We are…

 

One Tribe [=one human family], one time, one planet, one race
It’s all one blood, don’t care about your face
The color of your eye or the tone of your skin
…….
I don’t need no leader
That’s gonna force feed a
Concept that make me think I need to
Fear my brother and fear my sister [Fear keeps us at arm’s length from our neighbors who are different than us]
And shoot my neighbor or my big missile
If I had an enemy to {enemy}
If I had an enemy to {enemy}
If I had an enemy, then my enemy is gonna try to come and kill me
Cause I’m his enemy
There’s one tribe ya’ll

………..
One love, one blood, one people
One heart, one beat, we equal
Connected like the internet [what happens to you affects me and vice versa]
United that’s how we do
Let’s break walls, so we see through
Let love and peace lead you
We could overcome the complication cause we need to
Help each other, make these changes
Brother, sister, rearrange this [we are brothers and sisters]
…….

A side bar: for Christians reading this blog, the ‘bar is set a bit higher’ for us because: 1) an implication inherent in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the mandate to cross uncomfortable boundaries and this includes racial boundaries.  And 2) the church, as a ‘contrast society,’ is suppose to be leading the charge of modeling what ‘supernaturally restored relationships’ look like.  Atop of the list is supernaturally restoring race relations.  This means all races need to reach beyond the borders and build relationships. (See Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality where he talks more about how the way Christians live is actually an apologetic; and Michael Goheen’s A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story where he discusses the church as a ‘contrast society’). And finally, I am very fond of Dr. Hans Bayer, New Testament Professor at Covenant Theological Seminary. He said once, “live life from the end of the story.” What’s going to be true at the end of history when Christ makes all things new and sets up His kingdom here on earth? This new kingdom will be multi-ethnic!  So, as Christians, we are called to make this a reality now to give others a foretaste or preview of that heavenly reality at the end of history!  What a challenge but what a thrill and privilege to get to know someone who does not look like me.

 

 

 

 

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