What is the Appropriate Response from an Onlooker?
I live 45 minutes outside of Baltimore. Last week we traveled in for an event at Johns Hopkins. Little did we see or hear of the non-violent protests that had been occurring daily in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody. Yesterday much of that changed. All the world looked on as protests erupted into riots around Baltimore. I watched on Facebook as my news feed blew up with post after post of horror, disbelief, confusion, fear, and anger. I sat wondering what my response should be at a time like this. Should I have a response at all?
Does my voice and opinion have a place in this discussion?
I am a 30-something, middle-class, white woman who lives in the suburbs outside of Baltimore. While watching the events in Ferguson months ago and now riots in Baltimore, I have come to the realization that I have no idea what it is like to be a member of the black community in our country, nor can I sit as judge of how these events escalate.
It is ignorant to assert that our society and its institutions look at us the same.
We do not.
I have three sons. A teen, a preteen, and a boy. Each of them have the potential to be rude, disrespectful of authority, lazy, sneaky, and snarky. They’re human. They’re males finding their place in this world. As they grow I am aware that they may find themselves and their peers in trouble or under suspicion of trouble. If that time comes, I am certain that they will be cleared of false accusations or brought to justice and held responsible for their actions. However, mothers of color live with a legitimate fear that, guilty or not, an interaction with law enforcement may cost her son his life before judicial course is even pursued.
Where is empathy and love?
Looking on as the Baltimore riots unfold it is incredibly easy to see the lawlessness and become angry at needless destruction. But when we allow our own anger to become so loud that it drowns out those that have taken to physical behavior because their words have been ignored, the message is lost and the violence will continue in another city.
When we are overcome by asserting our proof of how wrong the other is, we give ground to hate.
While disciplining your child, have you ever gotten so caught up in the explanation of the wrong that you stopped listening to your child’s appeal, only to watch them raise a hand or throw something out of frustration?
Or have you found yourself ignored by your own children and resorted to raising your voice? Did it produce the change you had hoped for? Lasting change?
Being empathetic does not mean condoning violence and crime.
I do not pretend to know what it is like to be married to a dedicated agent of law enforcement, who does his job without accolade or appreciation, whose service is clouded by those who abuse the privilege of a badge. I know that their lives are in jeopardy when they report for duty. I know that their lives matter. But why does it have to be either or?
Why can we not agree that all lives matter?
There are good and bad men on both sides of this trial.
We have to fight to find and address the very root of these horrors. If we drop our fists that are shaking for (what we think is) justice, we can begin to listen to each other. If we stop watching what the media disproportionately reports, and seek to find human connection in the hurting community maybe we can be part of the catalyst for real change.
We need to stop looking at an arrest record to measure the value of a life or to justify abuse of authoritative position.
If you are a follower of Christ, you must understand that all life has value because of who Christ is.
Even the drug dealer.
Even the murderer.
Even those who want to reject His word.
Christ came to offer redemption to all.
When we stop seeing all life as redeemable, there is no longer room for love, grace, and mercy. It is the breeding ground for hate.
The convicted thief on the cross next to Christ was promised Heaven because he believed The One dying next to him.
The only appropriate response I can muster to the Baltimore riots is to PRAY. We are a broken and hurting society. True eternal healing can only come from God, but we can pray to be the vessels that He uses for peace. We can pray that He gives us eyes to see the hurting, ears to hear the frustration, and feet willing to walk where it is dangerous.
How are the Baltimore riots affecting your discussions?