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Photo: © Oleksandr Moroz -

Photo: © Oleksandr Moroz –

This past week, my thoughts have been marinating as I watch what is happening in Ferguson, MO. Has it only been a week? I hate to speak this soon.  The truth of what happened is still not known.

I watch TV. I read articles. I listen to commentators…both black and white, liberal and conservative.

I also remember events from my own lifetime. I have watched changes that have been rather dramatic in my lifetime.

Does racism remain?

Yes, sadly.  But not in the same forms it did. Not in the same ways. It has taken on different forms and different faces.

In ways, there have been great improvements. Black and white children go to school together and think nothing of it. My 8 year old grandson has a variety of friends and color seems to be the least of his concerns. I’m glad about that.

Our neighborhoods are more mixed than they once were.

My daughters went to college and had close friends of different races…as well as all through school. Our daughters fought with their black friends over the same trivial things as their white ones…and made up too. I can’t say I really had that opportunity until adulthood. (I was born in the 1940’s.) It was my loss. I just didn’t have the opportunity.

I grew up in a non-prejudiced home…sort of

I was one of those who wasn’t overtly prejudiced. I didn’t think I was better than the next person because of the color of my skin. I knew we were all made in GOD’s image. My mother grew up in the south. We were never allowed to use the n—– word…EVER! In children’s diddies where it had been there, the word “tiger” was substituted. When there was an uproar over some of those diddies, I had no idea what anyone was talking about…truly.  I didn’t know the word tiger had been substituted!

Living in Jamaica taught me that I had some subtle and not so subtle prejudices. My friend Walford Thompson, not known for subtlety, helped hammer them out for me! He recommended books to read and had many conversations with us that were invaluable! (He was our next door neighbor there for our first couple of years.)

Does politically correct language help reconciliation?

I certainly haven’t found that politically correct terminology has helped bring about racial recoconciliation. As new phrases and terms come out frequently, there always seems to be something to be offended by from those who can’t possibly keep up on all the terms and just want to converse!

It reminds me of a story I read back in the late 50’s or early ’60’s when early political correctness was coming in.  A teacher was asking Nancy, an eight year old student, whether she wanted to be called a negro or black.  She thought a minute and quietly said, “I just want to be called Nancy.”

Often, many would like to call people “Nancy” and the fight is over whether they are being called, “African-American” or “Black” or whatever the newest term is.

We continue to be called “white” or the less respectful “whitey” with a common negative connotation.  We aren’t European-Americans. Why do we have to have all the baggage? It seems to add walls rather than take them down.  I would like for us all to be Americans and work together from that perspective so we can have a goal for our country.  That is what made us great in the past. People left their countries and came here to learn English and become Americans…from the very beginning! They still enjoyed their national heritages and foods in their homes and smaller communities, but they were glad to be Americans and joined together as such.

There is no question that slavery was a horrible way to start the American journey for African-Americans but no living Blacks experienced it!

Yes, we have a lot of horrible baggage from the past in relation to slavery…but not every white family back then was involved in an evil way. Some were benevolent. Some helped in the underground railroad. Some helped the children learn to read. Of course, some were evil. It was a horrible time in our history.  

But how long will the resentment be stored up against those people of long ago? At some point, those of us who are white must change long held resentments and prejudices and so must our black brothers and sisters…because those who hang onto anger and rage are prisoners in the worst way.  But I digress.

Are the pc labels helpful? I don’t think so. It’s possible to offend without even being aware. People who would just like to be friendly find themselves offending without meaning to. This isn’t the world Martin Luther King was talking about in his speeches. I heard them.

He wasn’t wanting people to get tripped up on semantics when they were being friendly! Or for lawless people to be coming into communities ruining the business that were already there, holding them hostage until there was a verdict they wanted.  That is called lynching. It is barbaric.

No one who loves justice likes it. NO ONE! There is nothing about this violence and craziness that Martin Luther King would have liked. He was the epitome of non-violence. I couldn’t have done what he did. I do understand that he wasn’t perfect, but honestly, when people are shooting hoses of water or sending dogs after you…or threatening your life? Being non-violent in the face of all that violence?

That was the power of the movement. That is why they accomplished what they did. That is why their enemies hated them. They followed the same methods of Jesus.  It was not a movement looking for power…unlike many in it today. It was one that was working to quietly, humbly to bring about change. That was its power!

At the time, I didn’t appreciate all that was going on. I found it confusing. But when we moved to Jamaica, we read a lot about the movement, Martin Luther King himself, and black culture as well as a lot about the Jamaican culture so we could better minister there. That was when I learned more and understood more than I had when it was all going on in the US.

Can we stop judging each other by the color of our skin?

I don’t understand what it feels like to be black. I do understand what it feels like to be judged about who I am and what I am like based on the color of my skin…and I don’t like it.

I don’t like going to work and having it assumed that I am prejudiced against my black sister I work with. When I talk in conversations with some, they are surprised I watch movies that have black heroes and that I sympathize with them when they are unjustly treated.

What kind of person do they think I am? I am human. Hearing that makes me sad, very sad. I often feel I have to prove I am human and it isn’t fair.

Can we please get this whole “fair” thing out of our vocabulary? Life isn’t fair…for all colors. We all hit the fairness wall. It will fill us with resentment if we keep looking for it.

I remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. No I didn’t have them memorized. I googled them!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  MLK 

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”  MLK

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”  MLK

There is no question this is a horribly sad situation for everyone!

There is a deep sadness for the parents who have lost a son, for a police officer who is injured and whose character rightly or wrongly has been assaulted.

  • I feel anger at people who swarm to these events and stand in front of cameras…so sure of themselves and their assessment of what has happened…before all the facts are in. I am naturally that way, so it takes discipline for me to stop and pause to wait for the facts to come in.  To wait for truth to be learned, to wait for justice to play out. Waiting is not my thing. But waiting is not something I like. No one does. Least of all TV cameras!
  • I feel anger at wordsmiths who use their words to incite crowds to violence, pass on gossip, and tell half-truths. They are being irresponsible and a community is suffering because of it.
  • I feel anger at those who come to this town with the purpose of being violent. They don’t care about this family who lost their son, the police or even the town of Ferguson. They have their own vile interests.

The more information and misinformation that  plays out in front of cameras, the less likely justice will happen in the courtroom! The more damaged this community is by looting and destruction, the less likely justice will occur.

Some are convinced that the policeman was determined to kill this young man purely because of the color of his skin…or worse.  While listening to one early press conference, all the media questions were slanted against the police in favor of the young man who was killed.  How did they know what happened apart from hearsay? I am tired of hearing people who are charged with upholding the law being treated as if they are the criminals.

I am not so foolish as to think they never make mistakes.  They are human too.  Some of them can even be evil.  But do we go into a press conference with every question slanted as if they are the ones who are evil?  As if they are the ones to be distrusted?

Not if we want to get at the truth…or find justice!

As GOD’s people, we need to seek out things that are like GOD.

What are His attributes?

He is just and righteous, a GOD of truth, mercy and love.

Our justice and righteousness will seem small by comparison, but it still needs to be in place. The problem with justice is that it takes time for justice to play out.  We, as finite humans, need to ask questions to discern facts for truth-telling.  Who is telling the truth?  Who is lying?  Often good questions reveal this.

Autopsies need to be done. Forensic evidence needs to be assessed. It takes time for these things to get done. In many ways, justice can’t  be rushed. Facts need to be gathered and put together. Grand juries need to be brought together. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a few months.

And so we wait, listen and watch for justice.  Well, some do.  Others loot and pillage and tear up communities and businesses that aren’t theirs…in a town that isn’t theirs. They damage property. Why? They don’t care about justice or even truth. They are angry and want to release that anger. They don’t care who or what gets damaged in the process.

And what about truth? Where is that? Where is truth in the middle of this dialogue? Does anyone care about it? Or do they only care about their own “truth”? Or the truth that backs up what they want to hear?

How much do I care about truth that will get me to what actually happened whether I like what it turns up or not?

The same goes for justice.  We have our ideas of what happened.  Who the villains and who the heroes are.  What if the truth turns up a different story of who these people are? Do we still want it?

There is no question that this story is already tragic. Innocent people have been hurt…and  still will be. There are people who are coming in from the outside who continue to stir things up in this area. The violence in Ferguson is not simply limited to people there.  But they are suffering from the consequences of this upheaval.

What can we do?

  • Pray for real truth and justice to prevail! Everytime it does, it is a miracle.
  • In our discussions, speak in ways that encourage reconciliation, truth, justice rather than taking sides in a situation where we don’t know the whole story.
  • Find a way to listen humbly to those who are hurting, love those in pain, and not feel the need to force our own agenda on this situation. (always a challenge for me!)
  • These are some of the ways we encourage GOD’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.


original photo credit: © DiversityStudio –

updated 8/23/14