Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Shooting of Michael Brown: What I Know for Sure

It's been exactly two weeks since Michael Brown, age 18, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Other than a few discussions at home with my family, I haven't talked much about this volatile situation. I've wanted to share about it here in Deep Waters, but I've wanted to speak intelligently about it. There's just so much I don't know about this case right now.

And then I received an email from a sweet sister-friend that told me she'd checked my blog for my reaction to the Ferguson crisis. She encouraged me to "weigh-in" here, and I knew I needed to break my silence.

I feel like I did when I wrote about the Trayvon Martin crisis back in May 2012 in "Our Sons Are Trayvon."

I feel the way I did when I wrote about the verdict in the Zimmerman trial back in July 2013 in "Zimmerman Found Not Guilty/The Church Found Guilty".

I feel like there's so much I don't know. I wasn't in Ferguson when Michael Brown was killed. I didn't see if he struck the officer, if he provoked the officer to pull the trigger. I am no eye-witness in this case. I, like all of us, will have to wait until more facts are given to make my final judgement.

There is just so much I don't know.

So today, I'll just share what I do know.

What I do know is there's another unarmed African American young man that was killed. Another life cut short. Another young man that will never pursue a career, raise a family or live to a ripe old age.

I know that too many African American boys are being killed in the streets of every city in the US. And yes, many of them are being killed at the hands of other African American boys.

I know that I fear for my own sons, age 17 and 13. I fear that they are feared by people of all races. That they are viewed as threats to society. That they are viewed as threats to every other racial demographic. That they are viewed as threats to women of every race.

I know that I tried to persuade my 17-year-old son to not wear his hair in locs. (Many people call them "dreads".) I feared that he would be perceived as an even worse threat with that hairstyle. I feared that teachers in his school would make judgements about my son, seeing his locs as an aggressive statement, instead of the creative, artistic statement that they are.

I know that I worry about my 13-year-old son who's reaching a climax in his "teenage angst". That this season makes him pretty grumpy at times, and kinda sulky. I worry that his athletic, active and aggressive persona will set him up to be judged unfairly. That when his teachers say - as they did last year - "He just seems so moody sometimes", that he'll be viewed as a problem-student. That his lack of smiles will get him labeled as "another angry black boy." 

I know that I worry that when I send my 17-year-old son to college next year, his father and I will no longer be there to advise and protect him. That he'll probably be living in another city - perhaps a much bigger city - where there's a lot more going on. That he'll probably hang out more at night. That he'll be viewed as a threat when he drives or walks down a city street or enters a restaurant.

I also know that many - though not all - of my Caucasian counterparts don't really comprehend these concerns. 

I know that many of my white counterparts don't understand how prejudice and injustice play out in my life and the lives of other African Americans. They don't understand how real and deep "white privilege" really is. They don't understand that if their white boy were gunned down in the streets, their first thought probably wouldn't be, "Was it because my son was white?" 

And through all of this, I know that I will continue to have these conversations with my children. I know that I will tell them that unfortunately racism does still exist. 

I also know that I will tell them to not make the same fatal mistake that others make daily. I will encourage them to continue to love and accept others that may be different. I will encourage them to share the love of Christ with others - even those who may distrust or mistreat them.

And I know I will continue to trust the Lord to take care of my boys. After all, He's their Heavenly Father and He loves them way more than I ever could.

** What are your thoughts on the Ferguson crisis? I'd love to hear from you. Share them here, but please share them in a spirit of love and respect.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Farewell Robin Williams

The news is buzzing once again about a life cut short. 

Yesterday, 63-year-old actor-comedian Robin Williams was found dead in his California home. In a public statement, the Marin County sheriff's office has says that it "suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia." 

They have begun an investigation to determine the official cause of death, but I am already saddened by the possibility...

For decades I've enjoyed the talent of Robin Williams.

I was introduced to him way back in 19 - shhhh... when he starred in the silly sitcom Mork and Mindy. I smile when I think of that crazy outer space greeting, "Nanoo, nanoo".

I also loved his movies - Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting.

Robin Williams was a rare find - a comedian that could also handle his business in a dramatic role. Like the role of Sean Maguire, a Boston-based college professor in Good Will Hunting

I love this movie, especially the scene between Williams and screen-writer/director Matt Damon, who stars as the main character, Will Hunting. Will and the good professor are discussing Will's personal profile, including pictures of Will after brutal beatings by his foster parents. Will appears unaffected, even nonchalant as he shares the dramatic details of his troubled, abusive childhood.

After listening to Will's bravado for a while, the professor says these pivotal words: "Will, you see this, all this sh**?" He holds up the file for Will to see, then drops it on the desk. "It's not your fault." 

Will replies, "I know..." 

"No, you don't," Sean responds. "It's not your fault."

Will's getting agitated. "I know." 

Sean says again, "No. Listen to me son. It's not your fault." 

And this goes on a couple more times, until Will loses it, frustrated with this professor's probing antics. At the last "It's not your fault", Will pushes Sean, then falls apart. Through his sobs he yells, "Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry, Sean!"

I wonder how many children - especially those from abusive, negligent homes - need to be told these four words? "It's not your fault."

I wonder how many of us need to hear the same words about the sordid details of our own pasts?

Man, I love this scene. Love this movie.

And I loved Robin Williams. What a tragedy for him to die this way.

At times like this, we Christians like to share pat answers. 

Yet sometimes there are no answers that we humans can come up with to explain the worst case scenarios. 

Suicide. Babies dying before their first birthdays. Homelessness. Poverty. Never-ending wars.

Instead of pat answers, let's pray for others. Let's reach out and let our friends and family members know we're there. That we care. Let's continue to share the hope of eternal life with others, so one day we can share eternity with them... 

...Believing that one day "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain..."*

Believing in the love of a Savior who sees all and knows all. 

Even when we're at a loss for answers.

* Revelation 21:4