I’ve been reading all of the news about Ferguson, Missouri and the Michael Brown case with a heavy heart. Race relations has been something that I have written about before on this blog and it’s something that I’ve had to legitimately step back and try my best to learn and understand about. Growing up white and middle class in a fairly affluent community has not allowed me the perspective to see things as clearly as I would like, so I’ve done what I could to try to learn from others whose experience has contrasted my own.
We live in a dangerous society where information is all around us, available to us 24 hours a day. I think that we take that for granted and don’t fully investigate all of the information that comes at us. Once upon a time, it seems that we actually did some fact checking of our own and approached news and information with some amount of suspicion and even, dare I say, trepidation. We would read more than one source, find out as much as we could, and then try to put the pieces of the puzzle together to see what we could make of the story.
I’m not sure what happened, but it seems that we’ve forgotten that there are always at least two sides to every story. It seems like we’re too willing to believe the first story that comes across our newsfeed or on our favorite news source rather than checking both sides for ourselves. And that’s a dangerous place to be.
I learned a long time ago that there is always something more than what appears on the surface. If we always take things at face value, we miss some heavy meaning that lies below the surface. Rarely are things what they appear. Rarely do things fit in the nice black and white categories that we would like to put them in. Although it makes the world seem a little bit more comfortable, at least in the eyes of the beholder, it rarely portrays things as true when we fail to see the grey area in which so much of what happens around us lies.
I am saddened that the life of a young African American man was snuffed out. I am saddened that we don’t know the whole story. I am saddened that incidents like this divide our country and result in political pissing contests. I am saddened that incidents like this reveal more about what lies beneath the surface of who we are as people, because what they reveal shows that we’re really not as far along as we think that we are. Some people believe in evolution, that we are getting better, more refined, but incidents like this seem to constantly point me back to the fact that we are broken, fallen, and sinful people who are in need of redemption and restoration.
I don’t know what the outcome of the Michael Brown case will be. Sadly, like so many cases before, I think that it will be very hard to get the full story. But can we look at this as an opportunity for growth? Can we see what can be learned in the face of tragedy and put away the name-calling? Can we pull the skeletons out of our closets long enough to acknowledge them and maybe even call them what they are?
Tragedy strikes and our first reaction, many times, is anger and fear. But anger and fear cannot win the day, we cannot let it. Anger and fear driving our emotions will only result in hasty and bad decisions. We’ve got to think with our heads and be guided by our hearts rather than letting our hearts be the driver of every situation. When we step back and gain a different perspective, we can move a lot closer to understanding than just diving in with only part of the story.
My heart breaks for the families of Michael Brown, of Trayvon Martin, of every young person whose life has been snuffed out prematurely. Yes, we will learn more of the story as time goes on, we’ll learn that these young people weren’t perfect, but are we? I can only hope that the lessons that we learn won’t be abandoned and forgotten until the next time, because the next time always seems worse than the time before.