Why I Can’t Write about Ferguson

Counseling LoriIt’s because I’m white.

Because of the color of my skin, I have no voice in Ferguson, Missouri.

That’s not something anyone has told me directly. No other person has silenced me, tried to shout me down, or threatened me not to speak out. It’s something I’ve absorbed from the culture around me – things I’ve seen in the media, conversations I’ve overheard, subtle messages from strangers. I’m not oppressed by anything greater than my own mind with a nudge from the prevailing culture and the powers of darkness.

I’m white, so I know nothing about race.

That’s the lie I believed. Since I don’t want to offend, cause trouble, hurt, or create conflict, I remain silent.

Which in some ways is fine. There are plenty of other voices speaking out about Ferguson. Many have wise counsel. God makes His voice heard when He wants. Still, it bothered me when I admitted the reason I was silent had to do with the color of my skin.

When I realized that false belief had permeated my mind so completely that I didn’t even consider writing about Ferguson, I began to have an inkling what it’s like to live as a person of color in this country. It’s barely an inkling – a flash, really – but it was revolutionary to realize that I’ve allowed the lie to silence me.

Nothing silences me.

Words are my oxygen. I take them in – I spew them out. But, this lie is so powerful, I muzzled myself.

It’s the first time I’ve consciously made a decision based on the color of my skin, believed something based on the color of my skin, censored myself because of the color of my skin.

For my brothers and sisters of color, this is not a one-time experience. So, already, I’ve learned something new from Ferguson.

I don’t have an opinion about what occurred between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. I have feelings about it. Mostly, feelings of sadness. I believe that Jesus loves Michael Brown and He loves Darren Wilson. For one to die and another vilified is tragic and immeasurably sad. It makes me glad I’m not God who makes the final judgments on each of us. It’s not my job to judge Mr. Brown or Mr. Wilson nor to speak against either one.

The greatest lesson for us all from that incident is that we live in a fallen world. Sin is no respecter of skin color. We receive equally fallen natures no matter our outward hue. It’s possible that every person in this situation was at fault.

I do have opinions about the violent protests. It’s not an opinion about how people of color should act when they’re angry – it’s an opinion about how all human beings should act when they’re angry.

I came up through the sixties and seventies. I’m a self-confessed idealist. I’ve been inspired by the writings and the lives of great men and women of every color. People who fought injustice with the spoken and written word. With non-violence. With their bodies refusing to rise from the pavement or bus seats or places of power. With love and radical acts of reaching out to those who were different. With self-sacrifice and choosing to lay down one’s life – not destroy another.

The message I received from all my heroes is that though there is a time for war, we should, at great cost to ourselves, determine to be people of peace. Paul told the Roman believers “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18 (ESV) Even readers of the Old Testament knew what God expected of them, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NKJV).

But, before any of us get all expository and judgy about what happened in Ferguson, we need to remember that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees with these words, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13 (ESV)

Mercy. We all want it. If we’re Christians, we’ve received it. Still, we’re stingy to pull it from our pockets and share it with others.

Mercy. In the nano-second of time I felt silenced because of the color of my skin, I imagined what that would have been like to experience over a lifetime.

Not good. And at some point, what I had to say would start bursting out in other ways, ways that weren’t constructive, sloppy, dangerous ways. And I would want others to show me mercy as I broke free.

Yesterday, I couldn’t write about Ferguson because I’m white. Then, Jesus showed me the lie and freed me from it.

I am free to speak. To love. To act. To reach out. To show mercy. To love justice. To walk humbly with my God beside brothers and sisters of every skin color.

What do I take from Ferguson? There is still suffering in my Father’s world and I am my Father’s daughter so I have work to do. And so do you.

What practical steps can we take to do the work of Christ among ourselves no matter what color our skin? **Note – this post is the voice of a white woman with a transparent soul – freed by Christ, recipient of His infinite mercy and grace.


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4 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Jan clough says:

    I remember when in my early teens it became apparent that people were disliked even hated because they were a different colour or nationality. I remember the absolutely shocking realisation of such ignorance that a person could feel that way towards another person just because they looked different, ate different food, wore different clothes, spoke differently and this still lives with me today in my sixties.
    We are all created by one hand, knitted together in our mothers wombs by the true and living God. Oh Lord forgive us and deliver us from our deep rooted ignorance and give us a deep rooted love for our brothers and sisters throughout your world despite our differences, after all we are all uniquely crafted by you.
    What an awesome God!
    Thank you Lori for opening our eyes,ears and hearts. Bless you!

  2. Carla says:

    I am white, but I have experienced racism. We lived in a predominantly black neighborhood in the 50s. I was 10. My mother or teacher would have to walk me home so I wasn’t beaten up. I had a best friend, Susie, who was black. I played at her house until it was time for her father to come home at which time I had to disappear because her dad didn’t like white people.

    Racism isn’t just one-sided. Hate is hate. But the Jews have experienced this for thousands of years. The ME hates Jews and wants to wipe them off the map. The world needs Jesus and His love in order to bring the world into peace. Revelations talks about the tree in New Jerusalem that grows fruits ‘for the healing of the nations’. I am looking forward to the time when true love flourishes and we can truly live in peace.

  3. So glad that you have written this blog, Lori! It’s inspired & needed by many who are white, black, yellow, or brown!

    Blessings

    Sheri DeLoach
    03 Dec 2014

  4. Maxine D says:

    I was bought up to respect everyone – full stop, no discussion! Show respect to all, or be disciplined. It was so foreign to me to see people discriminate against others when I left home and was exposed to such attitudes. I am so grateful for the upbringing I had, although it was imperfect, it had many great attributes.

    Thank you too for these words Lori. I too have experienced moments of feeling an alien in my own country, thanks to propaganda, and it is so easy to slide into the mindset of the majority. I am so thankful for God’s freeing mercy.

    Blessings
    Maxine