Ferguson: We Just Don’t Get It

Am I Next

Reflections on Ferguson, by Bryan Berghoef.
First published at Huffington Post Religion.

My social media feeds are filled with voices of friends mourning, shocked, and deeply saddened. African-American friends are feeling deep pain at the perpetual injustices their community experiences. Injustices that are not incidental. Injustices that are systemic.

Many of my white and other non-black friends are also expressing their outrage and mourning. Rightly so.

But other voices of white friends also come across the screen:

In response to a black mother who is mourning about a 7-year-old son who said, “Don’t worry mom, if we want to live, we just have to stay home”–a white man responds: “It may just be safest to stay home for a little while. It looks like the protesters in Ferguson are ignoring Michael Brown’s parents’ pleas for peace and non-violence… Not a huge surprise – Michael Brown didn’t listen either.”

A well-meaning white mom posts: “my momma always said… “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”… I try and remind myself of this every time I open my mouth to complain.”

In response to sharing a black friend’s son’s experience of police harassment, a white friend responded: “Yet the same way this man taught his son, my father taught me And my brothers. Any time we were pulled over, we kept both hands on the wheel, never moved towards the glove compartment. After the officer asks for ID, you politely ask if you may move to wherever to obtain it slowly. Let’s not do anything to appear as though we’re a threat.”

We still don’t get it. We just don’t get it.

When we, as the white community, see the deep pain and mourning happening today and post something about “not complaining” — we don’t get it.

When we, as the white community, see unfair police treatment of minorities and say, “Oh yeah, me too” — we don’t get it.

When we, as the white community, hear a mother lamenting the future of her young black son and say “Stay home and shut up and you’ll be safe. Mike Brown should have done the same” — we REALLY don’t get it.

Robert Jones points out in the Atlantic that the social networks of whites are a remarkably white. (Over 90 percent). He says, “In fact, fully three-quarters (75 percent) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence.” He notes well that one major reason for the racial divide over Michael Brown’s death is that “white Americans tend to talk mostly to other white people.”

So to my white friends, who are accusing African-Americans of “complaining,” who are pretending they experience the “same thing” from police, who think it’s the best course for black people to “stay home.” STOP. Just stop.

It’s time to listen. It’s time to mourn. It’s time to side with those who are working to change the system. It’s time to ask God to have mercy. On us. Because we just don’t get it.


Video by Christine Berghoef: Lord, have mercy. #Ferguson #Palestine #Immigration #More

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