Wow. Yesterday was rough. Monday night, after the Grand Jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson was announced, we watched as a couple of police cars and some stores burned, and we saw footage of looting…. though not surprisingly, there was almost no coverage of the members of the community and the protesters who stood guard outside of businesses in an attempt to protect them from looters and arsonists after it became clear the police were not going to. But the “News” channels are selling a product, and peaceful protesters and folks calling for calm and non-violence do not sell nearly as well as video of the same cop car on fire. Any way you look at what happened in Ferguson on Monday night, it was tragic. The news coverage was hard to watch, especially if you are looking for any signs of hope in all this mess….
But as tragic as the images of destruction were Monday night (even though only a very small minority actually reacted with violence), I think the real tragedy has been how so many have responded to the stories and articles that followed. Now, I know that everyone (including me) says you shouldn’t read the comments, but at times like these, it’s nearly impossible to avoid them. And really, I don’t think we SHOULD avoid them right now. These comments give us insight into what we are up against (the “we” in that sentence refers to those of us who actually acknowledge that racism is alive and well in the world, and those of us whose hearts break at the hatred and ignorance that was on full display in the conversations that followed stories about Michael Brown and the man who shot and killed him).
For me, one person writing something hateful or racist is not enough to make me feel truly discouraged–There are always going to be people in the world who get off on saying things that are purely designed to hurt. What DOES make me feel really discouraged is when a bunch of people cheer these sorts of people on. For example, a local news channel posts a video of people looting a Dollar Tree, and a person writes a comment that gets over 4500 “likes.” Here is that comment:
Followed by this:
Then, when someone speaks up and calls this filth what it is…..… Here is what happens:
Then, just to give more evidence about how none of this is about race….
Tonight in Nashville, about 450 people marched through the downtown streets in a show of solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. During their peaceful protest, they laid down in the middle of the interstate for 4 1/2 minutes, representing the number of hours that Michael Brown’s body laid in the street after he was killed. After the protest, some of Nashville’s police officers offered the protesters hot chocolate (which I think is absolutely awesome and an actual example of “peacekeeping”). When WKRN posted a picture on their Facebook page of the people lying on Interstate 24, here are some of the highlights of the comments that followed:
When I heard about this protest, I was so proud that people actually cared enough about something to take to the streets. The people who saw this story were not nearly as impressed. You should really go look at the overwhelmingly negative comments in response to this show of support. It’s startling. Though, I don’t want to make it seem like there weren’t people who were leaving comments that were critical of all the offensive comments. There were…. It’s just that they were so few and far between, and the moment someone spoke up, they were accosted by ignorance:
And what’s really amazing to me is how many of the people writing these death wishes and outlandishly racist comments on a public Facebook page had, right next to their name and picture, a link to the Facebook page of their place of employment. Maybe, as you’re reading some of the hate-filled comments that people write on Facebook, you should take a screen capture of the comments and post that picture on their employer’s Facebook page…. Just to make sure that the people who sign their paychecks know how they really feel. If you’re using a Mac, you can do this by pushing Shift-Comamand-4…. Just in case.
Please know I’m not putting these comments here for you to become cynical–I’m putting them here so you can how much work there still is to do. This stuff is sickening, but these are real people writing this crap. Racism is real, and it’s thriving. The people spreading the lie that we are somehow in a post-racial world because of our black president are the ones who like things just like they are. I was so discouraged and hurt by so many of the things I read yesterday… I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I was a person of color and those comments were directed at me. One string of comments really struck me. Here it is:
It was the question “Where are the Christians?” That’s a really good question…. Unfortunately, the answer is that many of the ones filling up the internet with hateful comments are the same ones who like to tell everyone that they are Christians. But really, if you’re on the side of hate, you are not on the side of Jesus. I have some bad news for you–The flood of hate-filled comments that has saturated social media over the past 24 hours has NOT been written by atheists and Muslims…. It’s been written by people who call themselves “Christians.” And that is really a shame. Everyone sees it, everyone smells it, and it smells like shit. And it hurts the reputation of Jesus.
So after the decision not to indict Officer Wilson, everyone expected violence to break out, and a small minority gave people what they were expecting…. and everyone looked on, and said, “I knew it….” How wonderful would it be, in these few short days before we all forget about Ferguson, Missouri and move on to the next argument, if the world didn’t get a chance to look at the reactions of people calling themselves Christians and say, “I knew it….” Jesus was very clear about God being on the side of the Hungry, the Thirsty, the Stranger, the Naked, the Sick, and the Prisoner. Jesus was very clear that his disciples would be known by how we love. Now, more than ever, let us be known by our love… A love that we bravely proclaim, even in the face of the storm of ignorance and hatred that we face in the wake of tragedy and injustice.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a post titled “Starting An Argument On Christmas For All The Right Reasons.” If you haven’t ever read it before (or even if you have), I think it’s an important thing to read right now. This is no time to be silent–Now is such an important time for people who would dare call themselves followers of Jesus to react to ignorance and hatred and violence with love.