Trying to Understand #Ferguson

fergusonLike the rest of the nation, I watched the grand jury’s announcement on television last night.  I listened to the reciting of facts and testimony that had been examined. In my way of thinking the process should be fairly straightforward.  If the physical evidence from that tragic day and the eyewitness testimony supported charges being filed against Officer Darren Wilson, then charges need to be filed.  If the evidence and testimony did not support charges being filed, then the grand jury should not indict.

As I listened to the decision being announced, a split-screen shot showed the reaction of people who had been gathered on the streets.  One shot in particular caught my attention.  It was of a black woman who had begun to weep.

Her reaction really struck me.  She was weeping.  Although I can’t say for certain, I’m going to guess that she wept because she felt that justice was not being served. Yet, I thought that justice had in fact been served.  The grand jury had convened for nearly three months, poured over hours of testimony and waded through a plethora of evidence.  Yet, she was weeping.

Then, the thought struck me that I’m looking at the situation through my world view.  I’m white, and I don’t live in the city.  What if I had a different world view?  What if I were absorbing the details through a different filter?  What if I were an inner-city black man?  Would that change anything for me?

Not long ago I read an account of an educated, businessman who is black.  He said that he is a tall, heavy man.  Admittedly, he descried himself as “intimidating.”  He also described how since the time that he was 15 years old he has been repeatedly stopped on the street or in his car for questioning.  According to his claims, he had not done anything wrong, yet because he fit certain profiles, he was often stopped and even searched.

What if I were this man?  What if I felt like I was continually stopped by the police?  What if my friends were also being routinely stopped and questioned by the police?  How would I feel?  Would I feel we were being harassed?  Would I feel powerless, while they had all the power?

I would imagine that if these things were true, then I would probably start feeling resentment.  Maybe anger.  Perhaps I would begin to feel that someone else could control me and I had nothing to say about it.

Assuming that I felt all of these things, how might I react upon hearing the decision of the grand jury?  Would I shrug my shoulders and assume that justice had been served?  Or, would my frustration and anger rise?  Maybe like the lady on TV, I would weep.

It’s easy to see how a world view can dictate the way we feel about something.  By simply changing our perspectives, we can alter the way we feel.  Maybe we should work harder to understand how and why others feel the way they do?  How might that change us?

I must also point out, however, that understanding the feelings of others does not mean we must always condone the actions of others.  Understanding why a woman weeps on TV is not the same thing as understanding why businesses are looted and burned.  I will not condemn the way people feel, but I might condemn the way they act.  Although I might not always understand the emotions of another and the reasons why they view life like they do, I believe we have a calling to always do the right thing.  Much of what happened overnight in Ferguson has been the wrong thing.

Tragedy upon tragedy.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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