remembering ferguson in over-the-rhine

Thursday, September 18, 2014

(photo: Twitter user @The_Blackness48)

Saturday night, Wendell and I walked through Over-the-Rhine, a traditionally rough, recently trendy neighborhood in Cincinnati. We put in our reservations at the fancy tapas restaurant owned by nationally recognized chef. We went through the over-pried locally manufactured goods store, lingered over the handmade wallets, and then we decided to take a walk down the crowded street while we waited. Any building that wasn’t already remodeled was under construction. Fancy lofts, expensive condos – Get in now while it’s cheaper…except cheaper means hundreds of dollars more a month than what these apartments used to cost. We passed modern fashion, pricey handbags, bouffant men’s hairstyles and all sipping cocktails on high stools.

Until two blocks down. There, the color changed. Literally.

The street was no longer glitzy, the people no longer white. A man lay in the middle of the sidewalk, a two-year-old nearly pedaled his big-wheel right into the street before his seven-year-old brother stopped him. The chairs were plastic, the drinks came in cans. I don’t think I have ever walked down a street with greater contrast than this one neighborhood. I love urban renewal as much as anyone, but my experience in the big cities close to us is that it too often looks like gentrification instead of true community transformation. This is part of the problem with race relations in our country.

I haven’t talked a lot about Ferguson with those around me. My feelings are mostly too raw. My heart is broken by this nation we live in. I’ve wanted to say things. So many things. I just don’t have the world experience to say them from my own personal authority, and after awhile, it becomes weary just quoting the knowledge I’ve attained from others.

I think I’ve mentioned before, briefly, the profound experience I had when reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander last year. I don’t often find myself convicted by ills committed by society at large or by our government as if they were my own sins, but the research and educational path I took while reading that book wrecked me in a way I didn’t expect. Things I thought were true all of my life were challenged deeply. The enormity of the task I have to rear a brown-skinned girl in a world where white privilege remains mostly unacknowledged and unchanged has brought me to my knees in humility. The unwitting complicity in these broken systems brought an unanticipated measure of guilt and repentance.

There were many who wrote about Ferguson in ways that I could never begin to put to the paper. There are others who are living this in ways that I probably never will. Their words bear far more weight than mine, so their words are the ones I’ll share here. I know most will think this is a story whose time has passed. I just can’t stop thinking about it, and I hope that none of us stop thinking about it. May we leave this world, this nation, our communities a little better than when we got here, and may I be part of that legacy.

 

If I could ask just one thing of you on this issue, please read some (or all) of these links. It might take you a week or two or even three to read all of them, but please. Please do not let this time in your life go by without investigating this issue in our nation, in our churches, in our own lives:

Why We're Still Unwilling to Admit to Systemic Racism in America - Benjamin Corey
“I believe that part of the task for Jesus followers in this time, in this place, and within this culture, is to usher in a season of reconciliation for our country. It will be hard work, it will make you unpopular, and it will involve some costly choices. While I believe that there are thousands ready to live like Jesus lived and to carry on his message of empathy, inclusion, and reconciliation, we must first face the following fact:
We cannot begin addressing this problem until we’re willing to admit this problem exists.
May we, the people of Jesus, live in reality– even if it is a difficult reality that invites us to sacrificial change.”

America is Not For Black People - The Concourse
”To ascribe this entirely to contempt for black men is to miss an essential variable, though—a very real, American fear of them. They—we—are inexplicably seen as a millions-strong army of potential killers, capable and cold enough that any single one could be a threat to a trained police officer in a bulletproof vest. There are reasons why white gun's rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children's toys. Guns aren't for black people, either.”

Ferguson and the Quest for Racial Justice - Russell Moore
”Ferguson reminds us that American society has a long way to go in healing old hatreds. Our churches are not outposts of American society. Our churches are to be colonies of the kingdom of God. Let’s not just announce what unity and reconciliation ought to look like. Let’s also show it.”

Racial Profiling, Thugology, and the Church - Efrem Smith
I was just in Oakland this past week and too many churches were closed, with signs stating that they are only open for Wednesday Bible Study and Sunday Morning Worship. This is unacceptable. The issues facing our cities calls for collaborative church strategies that put Christians on the streets until systems change and crime reduces significantly. Commuter Churches must become Community Churches again. The Church can indeed address both racial profiling and thug-ology.

Two Americas: Ferguson, Missouri Versus the Bundy Ranch, Nevada - The Daily Banter
You need to click through to see this article – it’s more a visual piece than something from which I can pull an effective quote.

Racial Bias, Police Brutality, and the Dangerous Act of Being Black - Kristen Howerton
Rather than a quote from this article, just go and look through all of the research Kristen links to in this article. It needs no commentary.

Would Black Transracially Adopted Males Rather Be White Right Now? - Angela Tucker
”Are white adoptive parents more inclined to reminisce, reflect and eulogize Robin Williams than they are to educate, advocate and act upon these current systemic tragedies that directly impact their family?”

This Is What We Mean When We Say It's About Race - Medium.com
”So when we say that this or any other issue is about race, part of what we’re asking is for you to go beyond the scope of your own experiences when choosing whether or not to validate another person’s perspective, because your experiences may not shed enough light on the problem. Just as fish don’t understand the concept of water until they’re out of it, white people don’t usually understand white privilege until they’re forced to confront its effects, usually by people of color who are sick of getting the short end of the privilege equation.”

A White Cop, A Black Kid, and A Crime - Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary
”As people of privilege (*ahem* you know who you are), we have a responsibility to ask WHY, and then listen intently to the answer. Our neighbors in Ferguson have been standing in the street with their hands in the air, because they're trying to tell us something about the balance of power and racial inequity in the U.S! Are we willing to hear them? Because maybe it's time to shut up and listen. Or maybe it's time to get up and act; to meet our friends in the street, clasp their hands, share in their tears, echo their outrage, and stand by their side until, statistically, a long and healthy future is equally as likely for every child.”

Black Bodies White Souls - Austin Channing Brown
”I am convinced that the soul of the white church has yet to be ashamed. It is not ashamed of slavery- it only dismisses it. It is not ashamed of Jim Crow- it only claims credit for ending it. It is not ashamed of incarceration rates- it only excuses it. It is not ashamed of ghettos- it pretends to have nothing to do with them. It is not ashamed of segregation- only silently benefits from it. There is no shame for who America has been. I believe that until there is collective shame for who white America has been to people of color, white America will not choose to be something else. If it is fine with who it is, it will continue to do what's always done.”
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