In the many prayers for peace in the St. Louis region that I’ve been seeing, hearing, reading in the days leading up to tonight’s Grand Jury decision ultimately not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, I hope that we’re all clear about why we should want peace.
We should want peace because this is the only avenue to eventual dialog, understanding, and empathy. We should want peace because we value the lives and safety of our neighbors. We should want peace because too many young African-American men have been hurt or killed, and no one, ever, should be killed on the streets of their neighborhood.
I bring this up because I have, in some posts on social media, detected an undercurrent that is disturbing. It is the entreaty to protestors to “get past it,” “move beyond it,” “let it go.” This plea usually comes from people of privilege, people who look like me, and the unspoken corollary is, “so things can get back to normal,” “so I can get back to my life,” “so I can forget all this ever happened.”
So, to my white cohorts, mostly the bros, let me be clear: WE have got to get over it. This is not going to go away. That’s the problem: It never SHOULD have been “away.” Us white guys have a nation that was just made for us – take a gander at the painting below of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, if you have any doubt – and read the Constitution, the original. No women in there, and slaves were 3/5 of a man. Three-fifths. And they were slaves.
I am lucky enough to have grown up in the 60s when three things were going on:
1) The Civil Rights Movement was in full flower and was on the CBS Evening News every weeknight.
2) The Catholic Church was in the throes of its post-Vatican II reform, calling on Catholics to serve those who needed care.
3) I was realizing I was gay.
For me the timing was perfect, and those three threads wove a tapestry that has shaped me into someone who has a calling, who has found work that helps those in need, and whose other pursuits in advocacy and the arts serve these same ends.
So I am praying for peace tonight, for all the reasons I mentioned above. But I am NOT telling people not to be angry. Because I am mad as hell, not so much at Darren Wilson or at the Grand Jury, but at a city, a nation, a society that creates these roles, these memes, these archetypes that become "Michael Brown" and "Darren Wilson," tropes almost, that will inevitably clash and immolate each other. And it pains me that so many people of privilege have written such hurtful things in spaces like this and just want it to end so they can get back to posting cute cat videos and scrumptious food pics on Facebook and planning their next vacation.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love fun stuff on Facebook. I post it all the time. And I love vacations. But we have created a world – or have been complicit in its continuance – in which vast communities do not have these luxuries because they are trying to keep body and soul and family together. And if I am angry, I am just as angry at myself as I am at any other middle-aged white guy. I was lucky enough to be made aware that, when I look in the eyes of people who seem so unlike me, I will see myself. Yet I know I can do more. We can all do more. Or in our hearts, we all face indictment.
So I pray tonight, not so much for peace as for non-violence, and I pray everyday for the souls of people in every community to be shaken out of our collective Matrix-esque torpor, to reach out, and to love our neighbor.