Posted on my Facebook, keeping a copy here:
Given that my twitter feed has been full of news about Ferguson, and Facebook has been completely void of it, I should post something here.
Tonight I watched the live streams of the “No Indictment” announcement. Then moments after the announcement, the police announce that the gathering of protestors was no longer legal and began to fire tear gas into the crowds. I listened to President Obama’s speech urging peace while juxtaposed to the footage of tear gas and riot gear.
Then Marshall was ready for bed, so our little family of three gathered and said our family prayers. It was surreal, having watched moments before the chaos happening in a neighborhood, saying that family prayer and being thankful for the things we normally say in our family prayers:
“We’re thankful for our home. We’re thankful for our neighborhood, our ward, and good friends that live near by. We’re thankful for our family and our health. We’re thankful for this country we live in.” I haven’t been more acutely aware of the privileges I have, and my family has, than during that prayer.
There are people who are our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters from the same heavenly father, who have much different experiences than most of us. All of the factors that play into this reality are extremely complex and nuanced, and picking one single incident to try and summarize the whole issue is doomed to gloss over or misrepresent what is really going on.
So instead of debating the specifics of the Michael Brown shooting, or the vast majority of peaceful protests with a few looters causing chaos (like the while male they are currently searching for who set the cop cars on fire), I want everyone to do one, simple thing:
Go and talk to a friend who is a different race than you, and ask them about their experiences. It is so easy to say “Oh, well this isn’t really a problem because Michael Brown stole from a store before being shot.” When I’ve asked the friends I know, every single one had a story that I haven’t experienced at all. A gun being pulled on them during a traffic stop, being tailed in a grocery store worried that they would steal something, get racially charged emails based solely off their last name, etc.
“Well I have several friends of a different race, and they’ve never mentioned anything like that before.” Every story I’ve heard hasn’t been offered up without me sincerely asking.
It is so easy for many of us to just not realize that this kind of stuff happens every day to people who are good people, but get judged by the color of their skin. Once you realize that this stuff happens, you can start to be aware of your own subconscious biases and those biases around you.
Once you recognize the very real and impactful things that happen to other people, then I honestly believe you can be a positive influence in this world. I honestly believe that is part of “loving your fellow brother,” something that I believe is a commandment.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t agree with every pundit’s or activist’s solution. But that doesn’t give me a justification to believe that the problem isn’t real. But when most people I know haven’t a clue about the stuff going on in St. Louis, it worries me. I don’t think I have a single concisely racist friend, who believes in a superior race.
But as a nice guy who is a white male, my ignorance to the reality other people face can unintentionally add the problem instead of being a positive part to the solution.