Ferguson’s Frustration

Galatians 3:28 ESV

Steve Martin

Steve Martin

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (My understanding of this passage and the whole of the Gospels is that in Christ we are called to treat all persons with equal love and respect whether they are in Christ or not.)

The shooting of Michael Brown occurred on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, 28, a white police officer. The disputed circumstances of the shooting and the resultant protests and civil unrest received considerable attention in the United States and abroad.

Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking down the middle of the street when Wilson drove up and ordered them to move to the sidewalk. Brown and Wilson struggled through the window of the police vehicle until Wilson’s gun was fired, either intentionally or as a result of the struggle. Brown and Johnson then fled in different directions, with Wilson in pursuit of Brown. Wilson shot Brown six times, killing him. Witness reports differ as to whether and when Brown had his hands raised, and whether he was moving toward Wilson, when the final shots were fired.

Residents of Ferguson, which saw weeks of sometimes violent protests following the Aug. 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, are braced for the possibility of more unrest, particularly if the grand jury decides not to criminally charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The past two days have seen protests around the area in anticipation of the grand jury’s report. Several dozen demonstrators took to the streets on Monday in Clayton, Missouri, where the grand jury is meeting.

Missouri’s governor declared a state of emergency on Monday and authorized the state’s National Guard to support police in case of violence after a grand jury decides whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager. “As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement. The order also puts the St. Louis County Police Department, rather than police in Ferguson, Missouri, in charge of policing protests.

There are three ongoing investigations by the FBI, St. Louis Co. Police Department, and the Department of Justice, plus a very generous grand jury investigation. Even with all that, many protestors will not accept anything short of an indictment of Wilson for Brown’s murder. One protestor even stated that if the indictment fails Ferguson will burn.

I have watched all this on the news and I must admit that I don’t understand violence, protests, and looting. Perhaps that is because I am white and have never felt the injustice and bigotry that our black brothers and sisters have grown up with and face every day.

My 10 year old brother and I (8) were walking on the streets of Greensboro back in the 50’s. I remember noticing, perhaps for the first time signs over drinking fountains and restrooms which read “Whites Only.” I wondered what that meant but didn’t ask anyone. I also remember ordering a hamburger and fries at Jim’s Lunch on Hamburger Square. Looking down the counter I could see an open window where black people would order the same as me, but had to sit at the back porch picnic table to eat. A lot of thoughts but still no questions. If you have ever seen the outside of the Carolina Theater you have probably noticed the set of metal stairs outside that seem to climb to the roof. The black people had to buy their ticket from a different booth and climb those scary steps to the second balcony. Thoughts but still no questions.

I knew that all people were equal and loved by God and that I had no right whatsoever to put anyone down, but had every responsibility to care for all brothers and sisters in the human race. Susie Coltrane (a black lady from Madison) cared for me up to the time I was around four years old. She stayed in our home and we stayed in hers. We loved each other. So…. then why did I not question this treatment?

In Ferguson, I think the facts of the case should be the determining factor and not the outsiders who have come in to lead the protests. This is not the time to even old scores but to get things on a proper path toward equality of treatment. No, I don’t understand it, but I pray for the people – all the people – of Ferguson who feel they have been disenfranchised from the American dream. I also pray that calm thoughts and forgiveness will rule the day when the grand jury delivers their findings.

Dear Lord, I don’t understand what is going on in much of this world. I don’t know why people hate, oppress others, and seek to rule over others without regard to their feelings or rights. Help me to ask more “whys” when I notice people treated in an improper manner. Help me to be a peacemaker where we can all rise above that which would bring us down. Keep all the people in Ferguson safe and bring them peace, in and through Jesus. Amen.

One Response

  1. A wise and well written commentary. I trust the majority of those currently demonstrating are and will remain peaceful. Sadly, the FBI is warning of outside extremists who may use the grand jury announcement, what ever it is, to incite violence and more looting. To the extent any hope by their demonstration to implicitly threaten mob violence if the result is other than indictment all charges, they are engaging in tactics similar to the Klan, mob justice is not justice. True justice based on the facts as you have described is what is needed.

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