Reflections on Ferguson

Here are some of the reflections on the events that have unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri.

Thabiti Anyabwile –  Why I Believe the Grand Jury Got It Wrong And Injustice Prevailed:  Instead we got what appears to be a grand jury overwhelmed with “all available evidence” without any theory for interpreting the evidence toward a charge from the prosecutor. One more time: I an NOT saying this is what happened. I’m simply illustrating how the commonly accepted points of evidence could be fit into a theory to support a charge of manslaughter or something else. And I think we have grand jury proceedings to determine whether such charges are reasonable. But that didn’t happen here. For that reason, we are left with the specter of injustice.

John Perkins – The Sin of Racism Made Ferguson Escalate So Quickly: For years we have been tiptoeing around trying to work out a human response to biblical reconciliation. I don’t know enough about this incident to speak to it directly, but I know that how we act shows that we haven’t developed an understanding of reconciliation that is tough enough to deal with these incidents. We need a biblical response, not a human response.

Matt Chandler – More on Ferguson and White Privilege: The challenge with white privilege is that most white people cannot see it. We assume that the experiences and opportunities afforded to us are the same afforded to others. Sadly, this simply isn’t true. Privileged people can fall into the trap of universalizing experiences and laying them across other people’s experiences as an interpretive lens. For instance, a privileged person may not understand why anyone would mistrust a public servant simply because they have never had a viable reason to mistrust a public servant. The list goes on.

What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias. A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege.

I don’t have to warn my son in the same ways that a black dad has to warn his son. I have never had to coach my son on how to keep his hands out of his pockets when going through a convenience store. Many of my black brothers are having these conversations with their boys now. Again, the list goes on.

Russell Moore – Ferguson and the Path to Peace: One of the things I’ve learned over the past year is that nothing brings out more hate mail, nothing, than when I say that too many black kids are being shot in America. Often this hate mail is accompanied by the sort of neo-Confederate rhetoric that I would have thought would have died out, at least in its explicit form, a long, long time ago. That’s just mail, with no real harm. I cannot imagine what it would be to worry about the physical safety of my sons. We have come a long way toward racial justice in this country, but we shouldn’t be deceived. The old zombie of Jim Crow still moves about.

Radley Balko – How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty: If you were tasked with designing a regional system of government guaranteed to produce racial conflict, anger, and resentment, you’d be hard pressed to do better than St. Louis County.

Leonce Crump – Our Response to Ferguson: We die to ourselves. We die to our political agendas. Justice does not have a political party. It doesn’t. And we die to our fear and constant need of safety.

Christian Rapper This’l takes action after Michael Brown killing: Thi’sl and his pastor Kenny Petty identify with the frustration in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson by protesters who demand justice for Michael Brown. Thi’sl sympathizes with protesters who are crying injustice. He rattled off several stories of instances when friends and family have suffered police brutality and he’s been racially profiled. Despite the motivation he’s been given to seek revenge, he didn’t arrive in Ferguson to protest. He arrived to run damage control. Thi’sl reasoned with rioters en route to loot Walmart on Sunday night. He stopped a man from throwing a brick at police. He shut up another who wielded a megaphone and incited the crowd to chant “shoot back.”

Joshua Waulk – Seeing #Ferguson With New Eyes: For the sake of the great name of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of his Gospel, those of us who have experienced the good life, the pleasures of the American Dream, must be willing to move—in our hearts, and our literal bodies, if we must, in order to identify with those who are in any trial, tribulation, or temptation so that we might minister to them more effectively.

Jerome Gay – A Response To Ferguson: The gospel demands that we address, that we approach, that we engage in the conversation of this magnitude. And what I hope to do is for us to see Mike Brown as a person. I’ve been reading and watching a lot, and there have been a ton of adjectives used to describe this young man. He’s been described as a “big fella.” He’s been described as a thug. He’s been described as a suspect. But he has not been described as a person.

The Other Side of Ferguson: Local Churches Fighting Injustice: the church has quietly worked from dawn until dusk without much notice from the press. Many of Ferguson’s citizens recognize a narrative missed by the press. Eighteen pastors along with their church members of various denominations and races gathered together Wednesday night in Ferguson, Missouri, not to demonstrate but to pray. At 8:00 p.m., they honored their city’s encouragement to head home. Other churches raised prayer tents around the town. Speakers and crowd members expressed hope in the gospel’s power to change lives and communities, but many complained that for centuries, no matter how pure, nonviolent, and prayerful the community at large has been, authorities have continued systems of oppression.

Thabiti Anyabwile – Why We Never “Wait for All the Facts” Before We Speak: I’ve received a bit of pushback on my post yesterday calling for leaders of the evangelical movement to organize themselves to provide theological and practical leadership on issues that affect the marginalized and oppressed. Why such a call should ever receive pushback is itself worth pondering, but I want to focus on the chief reason stated for the pushback.

It’s essentially this: “We should not pass judgment on Wilson until we have all the facts.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that in the last couple of days, I’d at least be able to satisfy someone’s Starbucks habit for a week.

The critique has the semblance of wisdom, in fact, some people even call it such. They say that speaking out is “foolish,” rash, inconsiderate of Officer Wilson, even contributory to racial animosity and strife. We would be wise to be silent, they tell us. They’ve always told us that. “Just wait. Time will tell. Justice will be done.” And they tell us this as if they don’t have any assumptions of their own, as if they’re the objective bystanders, as if being “dispassionate” is a virtuous response when someone in any circumstance is killed, as if their rational powers are untainted by what they’ve seen or heard or untarnished by their own experiences, as if there is some moral neutral ground on which to stand, and as if their silence isn’t itself a statement. To all of that, I want to say several things.

Austin Channing Brown – Black Bodies White Souls: If you want to know what to do, my answer is this: risk death. Risk the death of your reputation. Risk the death of close ties to your family. Risk the death of your dream home and “safe” neighborhoods. Risk the death of a large congregation. Risk the death of your big donations. Risk the death of your worldview and perspective on American history. Risk the death of your comfort in majority, dominant spaces. Risk the death of your leadership role, of your speaking engagement, of your writing opportunity. Risk never being invited back to the conference. Risk the death of your social and professional circles. Risk what we risk just trying to live.

Russ Whitfield – Ferguson and Your Church: A Plea for Building Cross-Cultural Community: One of the most significant things that you could ever do to contribute to the peace and health of your community, as a Christian, is participate in establishing the unifying presence of a cross-cultural church. In a healthy cross-cultural community the social myths are exposed and rejected, the embrace is pursued, and the power dynamics reflect justice. This kind of community can serve as a sort of hub that uniquely connects ethnic and socio-economic worlds that have historic enmity, mediating with the most revolutionary and restorative idea to ever touch this world: grace. Grace can elevate the socially downtrodden and moderate the socially self-righteous, bringing them together in the center where they both find the cross. Grace covers a multitude of sins and corrects a multitude of errors. Grace alone provides the resources for forgiveness and true change. Grace always holds out the possibility of new beginnings.

D.L. Mayfield – The Crucified God in Ferguson: But things change when you start to allow the experience of your neighbors to shape you, instead of the other way around. We started to see how things that were easy for us were fraught with complications for many of our neighbors: obtaining fair housing, experiencing limited interactions with the police (who were always respectful to us), having easy access to fair-wage jobs, and enjoying a much lower propensity to be caught (and charged) for minor civil infractions. For awhile, we were unable to comprehend what we were seeing and experiencing as bystanders in a divided America. Eventually, the weight of the truth started to settle on our shoulders, calling us to a grief that we never knew was in us, a form of lament that threatened to overwhelm us if we let it. And one day, it did.

Michael Brown. Ferguson: It’s essential that you stay informed about what is happening in Ferguson. It’s important that you hear the stories (the full stories), that you go beyond what is covered in the news… With this in mind, I am highlighting here some of the vital elements of Michael Brown’s killing. So much of this is drawn on the brave reporting and lived experience of others.

David Waters: The perilous reality of young black men: The frustration, pain and anger we see boiling over in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., is simmering all across the country — whether we want to acknowledge it or not. According to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of African-Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race, compared to only 18 percent of white Americans. That’s a startling and telling reality gap between people who see young black men as threatening and those who believe they are threatened.

Jennie Allen – To My White People: “When have you experienced or observed racism?” The question fell heavy and brave in the room as my white friends spoke of observations and my black friends of moments too awful to imagine. Regina shared about her siblings taking the bus to an Austin mall with the money they saved to buy their mom a birthday present, only to be questioned about shop lifting and chased out of the mall with no gift. (with Regina’s permission I share her story.) I realize as they each share similar stories – I have not heard. I have not listened. I have not understood. I haven’t often even tried to.