On Ferguson and Peace

peace 2The news headlines say the grand jury in Ferguson has reached a decision. A city stands braced for protests. The expectation is violence will again rock the small Missouri town, a town which once stood unknown in the heartland of America and has become the focal point of the race conflict that still pulses through this land.

The only facts that are agreed upon are these:

1. Michael Brown, an African-American teen, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

2. Michael Brown was unarmed.

Beyond these two statements, there is little that has been agreed upon in the court of public opinion. Differing accounts of the events have forged a wedge that originates in the small Midwest town and reaches from shore to shining shore.

Honestly, I haven’t followed the news of this case carefully, nor have I examined the facts. I certainly don’t sit on the grand jury, the only individuals that have (hopefully) been presented the comprehensive facts upon which to draw a conclusion about any possible indictment of Darren Wilson.  I simply don’t have enough information to draw any conclusions, nor would it be prudent to express an opinion based on media bites.

Here’s what I do know: I know that children come into this world without hate in their hearts. They do not see the color of another’s skin before they see another human being. I know that children want and deserve to live in a world filled with peace. And, I know there is not now nor has there ever been a parent that dreams of the day their child will experience violence, either close up or from afar.

Here’s what else I know: Children are taught the color of skin makes someone different, just as they can be taught the color of our skin is determined by melanin. They are taught hate, just as they can be taught love. They are taught intolerance, just as they can be taught acceptance. They are taught violence through example, just as they can be taught peaceful resolution. They are taught to judge, just as they can be taught to tolerate. And, children who learn to judge become adults who hate.

Sure, some might say it’s easy for me to preach when I haven’t had my child stopped at a store based on the color of his/her skin.  I know I cannot, regardless of how hard I try, possibly truly understand what the world looks like through the eyes of someone who has been discriminated against based on their race or their religion. The small amount of discrimination I have faced as a woman doesn’t possibly cast the smallest flicker of a shadow compared to what others have faced. I am not naïve, but I am a mother, and like all mothers I want my children to know peace in this world, not a world filled with hate because someone is the wrong color or religion or from the wrong neighborhood. And, as a mother, I can choose to teach love and continue to pray my children and my children’s children will live in a world where differences are merely differences, not determinants.

Tonight, my prayers are with and for the people of Ferguson, this country, and our world.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
~Seymour Miller & Jill Jackson, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” 1955

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14 thoughts on “On Ferguson and Peace”

  1. Thank you for your comments Mary. I too hope for peace. One of my daughters will be less than 10 miles from that city for the next 6 or 7 weeks (starting next week), training for a new job. I will be praying for that area probably more so with a vested interest there! Thanks again for your wonderful words.

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  2. Beautiful, Mary. Children are not born hating anyone or caring about — or even noticing – someone’s skin color, religion or sexual preference. Why on earth would we teach them to??

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  3. I do pray the jury came to the right decision (though don’t know what it is as I write this) — the best decision with what really happened. I do hate the hatred — as there seems to be on either side of the issue (though certainly not with the vast majority of Americans I hope). I can imagine on part of the protestors so much is anger that has been building over a lifetime. I don’t know of course. I only hope the right decision is made and that peace finds a way.

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    1. I do think there has been deep anger that has been brewing for some time, just as there has been a multitude of injustices that have occurred. Reading through various posts on social media tonight, I saw someone said they hoped for justice more than they prayed for peace. I wish they weren’t seen as mutually exclusive.

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  4. You so captured exactly what I have been thinking since this summer, right here: “I know I cannot, regardless of how hard I try, possibly truly understand what the world looks like through the eyes of someone who has been discriminated against based on their race or their religion. The small amount of discrimination I have faced as a woman doesn’t possibly cast the smallest flicker of a shadow compared to what others have faced.I am not naïve, but, I am a mother, and like all mothers I want my children to know peace in this world, not a world filled with hate because someone is the wrong color or religion or from the wrong neighborhood.” I have been thinking about what we, the lucky mothers, should do – how do we act? What do we say that will not be written off as naive and blinded by middle class rose colored glasses…. Oh, a conversation for another but for now, thank you for your thought provoking words and your commitment to teach peace, understanding, and acceptance. Love this post and you!

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    1. Thank you, Ruth! I don’t know what we say that will be heard and accepted with the sincerity from in which it is rooted, but I do know we must, absolutely must, begin a dialog. The violence does not bring change; it paralyzes movement and stagnates our society.

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  5. I spent a good chunk of time watching first hand accounts and am absolutely astonished Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted immediately. I am similarly appalled by how many people “know” what happened having read only news synopses and not educated themselves on the U.S. justice system’s working to understand indictment is not the same thing as a guilty verdict. Their knowledge is hardly knowledge at all; it’s frustrating to live in a world where it would be called knowledge by a speaker with a straight face.

    I understand–in some small part–the rage. Young black men are almost two dozen more times likely to be gunned down by policemen than their white counterparts. That is one small fact reflective of a grave situation that requires resolution. But though I understand the rage, I don’t believe violent protest will be effective at inducing change. If there is protest, I pray it will be peaceful, because anything more will (I believe) serve to widen the understanding gap and alienate people who might otherwise have their eyes opened not only to injustice but the importance of remedying it.

    Saying this doesn’t make me an apologist. It makes me a practical person who, through accumulated professional and personal experience, wants to ensure that my actions are tailored to desired end result. The end result I desire is change. To effect that, I need to consider how to reach folks not already in the choir, which I perceive as more likely through compassion and eloquence than violence.

    All of which is to say … hear, hear. Beautifully put.

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    1. I thought of you, and Anthony, and the littles often during my writing. I thought about the world your boys may know and how it may differ from the one my girls know. I thought about your recent conversation with Lil’ D about Ferguson. I thought about the world I would like your boys to know, and my girls to know, and the future generations. And, I thought about (and agree with) this, which you expressed so beautifully:
      “If there is protest, I pray it will be peaceful, because anything more will (I believe) serve to widen the understanding gap and alienate people who might otherwise have their eyes opened not only to injustice but the importance of remedying it.”

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  6. For sure agree with you here, Mary. I remember as a child asking why we had eyes if seeing our differences only served to make us hateful. White privilege makes it impossible to fully know how others feel, but it doesn’t prevent empathy. Thanks for this thoughtful piece, something I have grown to look forward to from you.

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