You can imagine my shock as I started to read about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri. I don't live there. I live in a small town in Georgia. My house is on a street that is 100% white. The country club is literally my back yard, but one street over an aged neighborhood begins that stretches about 20 blocks of 95% African American residents. I drive twelve minutes round trip to school every morning and afternoon, through this neighborhood where foot traffic is the norm. As much as I love a good metaphor, it is not lost on me that I pass dozens people of color watching, waiting on the bus or walking, while driving a white Suburban that cost as much as the average home on these streets.
This is my neighborhood. I wave at some of the regulars and on my return trip home in the morning I sometimes pray for various ones as I pass. I vote at the baptist church that sits right in the center and am privileged to know their amazing pastor. His daughter is one of my dearest friends. I've been blessed to attend a worship service there...a vanilla sprinkle in a chocolate sea of praise. And not one iota of this is an attempt at activism. (Frankly, I have hesitated to even write about this because of fear that my intentions would be questioned or misconstrued.)
But Monday, after reading, watching and thinking I couldn't help but wonder, "Could my town be a Ferguson?" Do my neighbors feel the anger, vulnerability and frustration these protesters feel? I called my friend, T. and told her I wanted to talk about it all when she was ready. I don't want to be ignorant to the challenges my friends and neighbors face.
While we can argue the various disputed issues of the Brown case, one thing is clear: race issues are complicated, painful and still very real for many of our friends and neighbors. I have watched videos and read heartfelt posts from mothers of boys: both white and black. One of the most profound was a facebook post from a woman named Loris Adams in North Carolina. (I tried to link but can't.) She posted pictures with her son and described how terrified she was to realize her son had taken a shortcut while walking home that night which involved jumping a fence. Her thoughts went immediately to a place I cannot imagine.
"... because there is a target on his chest and I've trained him since birth to NOT invite red dots to train on that target. I'm MAD that I lost it on him, but I'd rather now than at a funeral.
I would love my friends and colleagues who are not parents of a black child to understand the complexity of everyday life for those of us who are. I have the same concerns about gas prices and paying for a college education as you do, but that's topped by the gnawing fear - "is my boy next?"
That's why I pray. That's why I march. That's why I push. That's why I teach...That's why you'll find me on my knees in my office. That's why I look so sad sometimes.
It's not news for me.
These are my sons.
These are my sons.
These are my nephews.My brothers.
This is real..." -Loris N. Adams, via facebook
I want to be more about bridges than barriers. In the same way we seek to understand the unique challenges faced by single parents, those with special needs, impoverished people--I want to be sensitive to the real fears and issues of Moms raising children of color.
Ironically (or not), the post I wrote Monday before tuning into the news was about loving our neighbors---Jesus described it as the second greatest commandment. While I am still sorting out exactly what that means as a Causasian housewife in the deep South, I know that as love so often does it starts with paying attention.
I can't 'fix' Ferguson, but I can be a caring friend and neighbor who prioritizes building bridges and relationships. I can listen. I can care. I can model that for my children.
So can you.