So it’s been a crazy time in Missouri for a lot of people. Citizens of Ferguson are clearly super pissed and fed up with youth in the black community dying at the hands of police. This is not a new issue, sadly. Bradley Nowell sang about this in his band, Sublime’s song, “April 29 1992″. Though, at the time similar expressions of violence and looting were happening, it was in response to the Rodney King beatings in L.A. It really wasn’t about Rodney, however, but more so about decades of abuse at the hands of supposed public servants who had been lashing out at citizens in the poorest sections of the city.
Now obviously there are a few common threads in these situations. One is that Rodney King was not innocent. He was being arrested and the manner in which he was treated by the police was absolutely horrid and a crime against humanity. This thread had been woven into present day Ferguson as the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the police officer, Darren Wilson’s acquittal, come to a head. Surveillance camera footage from minutes before Brown was shot shows the 18-year-old robbing a local store and aggressively interacting with the store owner . Obviously not an innocent citizen going about his own business but nevertheless was shot, while unarmed, allegedly once as the gun discharged in a struggle at the officer’s patrol car window, and then shot six times when Wilson pursued Brown down the street as he fled.
None of this is new information to the public to date. As these events have unfolded, Ferguson, MO is in a desperate state of affairs with looting, gunshots, fires and violent protests to the violence done to unarmed citizens at the hands of the police. Again, as Sublime reminds us, not a new situation, but a new passion and general feeling of disgust with media, govt and police has risen up.
I believe that this is the result of obviously several issues but it brings to light an issue many of us have here in America. We have decided, long ago & we are not the only culture to do so, that violence is how we communicate. The issue in Ferguson is one that will and has split this country in half. Both sides are behaving badly but one thing that I have learned is that behavior is communication, no matter how unjustifiable it is. Violence communicates something immediately that many of us feel isn’t being heard through normal means. I believe that the police and govt need to listen very carefully to the citizens in Ferguson but I also urge the citizens of Ferguson to respond peacefully; Violence begets violence.
Now that I’ve said all that, I would like to communicate that as a white, European-American in this country, it is very difficult to know how to support either side of this issue. There are good, white cops, I know some. They don’t deserve the violence that they are being forced to react to. There is no community that I hold more dear to my heart than the black communities that I am connected with. I have never felt more loved, appreciated and honored as both a person, a human being and as a minister than when I’m with my friends at City Harvest International Church in Newark, NJ.
This issue has made it extremely difficult to know what to say and how to respond. There has been an atrocious injustice done to the people of Ferguson, MO and my prayers are with them. God help us know what to do and how to heal this open wound in this country between two colors that should just be colors of crayons and not a separation of people. My fear is that these issues will keep increasing until the United States finds themselves in another great civil war.