The reality is most American citizens and immigrants who are black will not face the end of a gun held by a nervous or improperly trained police officer. Most black Americans will never know the fear that engulfs any sane person who is facing a life threatening situation such as Michael Brown did this past summer. I will not debate nor entertain who precipitated the untimely death of a life cut down too soon. I will not concern myself with the lawfulness or lack of it because I am not a lawyer and do not play one on television. What I will talk about is the feeling I have, in my own heart, in the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting. It is the same reaction I had after the murder of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice of Cleveland.
Numb realization that there are situations in our lives that are sometimes spun out of control. And in those situations, it’s usually going to end badly for the involved. It may not always be race or prejudice. It may not always be wrong place wrong time. It may not always be bad decision making. It may not be potentially dangerous laws like Stand Your Ground. It may not be born of misunderstanding. But no matter the reason for the loss of livelihood, status, or life, all involved are affected… Sometimes permanently.
And here I am, left to stand by, wondering why. Why has it happened again? Why has yet another situation spun out of control? Why has the law failed to protect the legacy of the dead? Why is there ambivalent feelings surrounding the survivors? Why must I, as a father of a black teenage boy, once again have to enter into conversation about why a fellow black boy has died and he is never going to have the chance to meet him? Why must I lose sleep at night and spend my days praying for my sons safe return at night? Why must I constantly seek comfort in biblical passage and in my Lords words to counteract the pain I feel?
Why am I left with more unanswered than answered questions?
I am tired of being afraid. I am worn from being bombarded with issues of race from the media. Do not get me wrong. I do not fault the media. It’s their job to report the day’s events in a responsible manner. What bothers me is just how OFTEN they must do it because the events just keep happening.
I’m starting to think that this is why Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Cornell West, and others throughout American history have taken up the torch to take an active role in the eradication of poverty and Institutionalized racism. Because sitting on the sidelines is maddening. It makes one feel impotent. It makes one numb… As I feel.
Long ago, I realized that when I take an active role in the creation or furthering or completion of anything, I do not feel this way. When I started working with my church, my family, and my various places of employment over my short life, I now realize (with the benefit of hindsight) that when I became involved and an active participant I no longer felt affected but instead I felt effective.
So what to do?
I act in my own small way. I’m not brave enough to carry the very heavy torches that Dr. King Jr. carried. The hefty weight of responsibility that Malcolm X bore. What I can do, is be a help to those I am blessed to meet in the several stations of my life. I can usher someone who knows no better through a problem they have so they need not face the business end of a metaphorical gun. The metaphorical gun being an unfair opinion rendered by an angry official. Or the metaphorical gun of a disrespectful policeman who has misjudged me and my station, how I react to diffuse the situation. The metaphorical gun of being a stumbling block to someone who wishes to have just a closer walk with thee. The metaphorical gun of foolish commentary when wise absorption of news events will empower me to instead speak intelligently about it.
I refuse to allow myself to be a metaphorical gun to someone else. I wish to be the kind of person I want to see. I’m just foolish enough to hold onto the belief that if I live my life uprightly enough someone may see my example and choose a different path. A path that they may previously have not considered possible or attainable.
It’s very possible that the decisions made that horrific day in Ferguson Missouri this past summer and more recently would have happened anyway. That the fate of that flawed officer and that doomed boy were sure to occur no matter what I or anyone did or could do. But it is also very possible none of it would’ve happened if those two ill fated humans had had different life experiences. If they had been witness to such an amazing series of people making wise decisions for themselves and with others that the officer and boy might’ve chosen not to do whatever it is they did.
Maybe. Just maybe.
For them I will never know. But for tomorrow and tomorrows tomorrow, I will continue to be active in my own way. To be the kind of man I want to be. And I will continue to hope and pray and teach and live in such a way that other folks decisions might alter for the better because they witnessed something or someone doing better.