If It Wasn’t About Race Before, It Is Now

Are they arresting a demonstrator? Or are the arresting a thug.... I guess that depends on who's doing the describing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/GETTY IMAGES)

Are they arresting a demonstrator? Or are the arresting a thug…. I guess that depends on who’s doing the describing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/GETTY IMAGES)

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….

The kind of crap that makes me want to just quit trying.

The kind of crap that makes me want to just quit trying.

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:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.12.47 AMFollowed by this:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.13.04 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.13.45 AMThen, when someone speaks up and calls this filth what it is….Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.16.48 AM.… Here is what happens:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.15.15 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.17.39 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.20.11 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.20.46 AMThen, just to give more evidence about how none of this is about race….Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.21.14 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.21.51 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.22.26 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.25.47 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.26.04 AM

Protesters on I-24 near LP Field

Protesters on I-24 near LP Field

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:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.50.23 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.51.00 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.52.17 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.52.40 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.53.58 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.54.44 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.03.49 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 3.01.56 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.58.36 AM

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:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.49.03 AMAnd 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:
Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 2.47.22 AMIt 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.


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23 Responses to If It Wasn’t About Race Before, It Is Now

  1. mo says:

    It’s not a proud day here. The weird combination of pride and ignorance can deflate you, make it hard to remember what Jesus said we should do…respond with love and compassion. Jesus set a hard standard to follow all the time. And please, if these folks must spew, could they please learn to spell and use apostrophes correctly? Or let their phone take over?

  2. Autumn says:

    I am an atheist, but I subscribed to your blog some time ago after reading a blog post that I can’t remember at this time. However, I read your blog because it’s so refreshing to hear from a Christian that isn’t hateful. Now, I know a number of Christians that act and talk the way you do, but there are so many, specifically on that hell-hole they call Facebook, that prefer to act like the people you were awesome enough to highlight above. It’s so discouraging that those “Christians” are the ones that are the most vocal. Thank you for your blog post; I will share it with others.

  3. klc says:

    First off, I will start with saying that I am not white. Second, this article/commentary is incredibly one sided. Yes, some people are making “racist” comments that are very unneccessary; but here, you are blanketing one race by the posts of simple minded people. Additionally, you do not point out the racist comments made by the African Americans. If you are going to have a valid argument you should point out the flaws as well. Racism is a two way street, not a one way street as you are indicating in this article. In fact, I have seen that the people who are claiming racism this and racism that are the very people who are causing the tension, dispair, and fueling the racism fire – to put my view into contacts, I grew up in the equivalent of the a reservation and have seen the “racism” from the white people, when in fact the true racism came from my own people. The same goes for the African Americans who claim “racism.” Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there that are truely racists, but not everyone or even close to everyone. Being a TRUE minority in a white society, it is a struggle, but I make it work and NEVER claim racism for my failures, shortcomings, or actions. Race to does not make who you are or how people see you.

    • Autumn says:

      Is it one-sided, though? I haven’t seen any non-white people making racist comments. Maybe the author of this blog has not seen that either.

    • K says:

      I am a Hispanic and I am sorry to say that you do not understand racism. Race does not define you, yes but that is only because race is not a natural thing, it isn’t biological, it is man made. The people who made it are still in power today, affluent white people. No Americans are not white. Europeans made this a thing and it translated to this country with them. They destroyed the native population, calling them savages for their culture, lack of knowledge of their language and for their demeanor. Then the slave trade begins and slaves are introduced into this country and to justify this the Christians proclaim the white man’s burden and how they must educate and show these people the light: through forced labor, with no pay, harsh treatment and by dehumanizing them. One of the ways of further securing themselves as better and masters of these people was race. Because they were of a lighter skin tone and had certain physical characteristics different to those of Africans, which are shaped by geographical location, they considered themselves superior. Then after years of slavery, then years of share cropping (another form of slavery) and years of economic oppression, education withholding and other inhumane and unequal acts minorities, especially the black community, has been shaped and morphed. Racism is bad, but it was created by the white man, to make him superior. Just because now minorities realize they can bring it back upon him and just because now we can make them feel guilty and ashamed does not make it wrong. The racist terms and language used against our people: nigger, welfare baby, food stamps child, monkey, wetback, redskin, beaner, spic, uncivilized, McDonald’s workers, etc. are far worse than redneckc honky, hillbilly, cracker. No racism should occur it’s morally wrong, however the white man cannot wish to abolish it after they have employed it to systematically oppress the people they deemed beneath them. The way to eradicate racism is through education and through a channel of communication between leaders of different ethnic communities but for now people are allowed to blow off steam…it’s unfortunate that those in a privileged society do not wish to confront this issue. It was the same way when women wanted rights, same way when MLK Jr. Fought for rights. No one wishes to address it and sometimes the only way to address it is to make it noticeable and unbearable sometimes you have to be aggressive.

    • Eric says:

      Honey, as a young Black man living in these United States who cites racism when he sees and/or experiences it (because when something quacks like a duck & walks like a duck, it probably is a duck), Black Americans cannot be what you think you understand to be “racist.” Black Americans do not hold the social power and stronghold in this country to implement such an institution where we & anyone who looks like us are the ones who stand to solely benefit. That, my dear, is racism. Black Americans can be prejudice, yes. Very prejudice depending on the picture we’re looking at, but racist? Nah. You wont find an incident in this country where the Black American collective stands to gain all of the upperhands in this society & exploit it for their betterment while everyone else merely gets the leftovers.

      There also is no racism fire to fuel because it was ignited into the minds of the oppression over 400 years ago when the Middle Passage took its first breaths into the economic, social & political body of this country. The people you feel are causing this perceived “tension” and “despair” are the ones coming forth with the deepest wounds nobody wants to believe they have & thus will never be healed. I understand you may want it to go away, as do I, but sweeping it under the rug & blaming the victims wont do that. Frankly, I think in these times, we need to talk about it even more so that we can bring about some understanding & truely get to this place that so many would like for this country to get to: a place where we are all fortified in our equality. No one is saying everyone in the majority or who benefits from the majority is racist. However, we cant continue to walk through our experiences on a daily basis, some of which have instances of racist activity, and be written off & virtually told that what we saw, what we felt, what we experienced was not racism when we’ve been forcibly living in this sty for hundreds of years.

  4. hauserpromotions@comcast.net says:

    Great piece man. Your writing gets better and better. I feel insulated from the sort of madness you share in these twitter posts. Breaks my heart. Hope I can be a light for someone today. Chris Hauser

  5. Cece says:

    Thank you for these posts.

  6. Justus says:

    I know a lot of people who were on I-24 in Nashville. Most of them are christians.

  7. chad says:

    While I agree in part with your point I think this post and other conversations like it are worthy of a deeper view. Of course hate and biggotry exists in all races and creeds and people need accountability, but the bigger issue is the structural racism that needs repair. This is not about individual “racists” – it is a structural problem. The types of FB comments displayed here are just a glimpse into a much bigger issue…cultural racism and white privilege so widely accepted that folks don’t think twice about saying things with their names and faces attached. Not with white hoods on.

  8. I have to admit, I am shocked. I don’t think of myself as naive; I post on racism from time to time and I have a lot of friends who are people of color, so I hear it all. Or so I thought. I just can’t believe these comments. Even if someone held such twisted hatred in their hearts, you would think they would have the decency to harbor their hatred in silence. Sad, sad, sad. Disgusted. Thank you for posting this.

  9. mihipte says:

    1) Ferguson police need to chill out and retire their combat gear.

    2) This shouldn’t have been a thing in the first place; everything I hear indicates the “innocent killed” version of the story is hooey.

    3) Something *is* seriously wrong with a culture that produces looters from such an issue. Looting after a natural disaster is more obvious as an unscrupulous opportunity, but how is it that a small army of looters seem to have popped up in Ferguson just because of a political issue?

    4) I hadn’t heard about the cops not protecting businesses; that is weird. On the other hand, if they had acted would a looter now be another martyr, prolonging this chaos?

    5) Under any circumstances, I think claims of not being racist are absurd, for the subtle definition favored by the left. This pointless news item is only intensifying that problem. Let’s have well-publicized community-building exercises instead.

    6) A pox upon people who stir the pot. *glares at Al Sharpton*

    • ben says:

      Right on, mihipte.

      This is the kind of thing that makes racists come out of their mom’s basement to spew their ignorance, but I also know plenty of people who disagree with these protestors who aren’t racist. That really doesn’t matter, though, because it’s made into a race issue by the media and by Facebook posters alike. And that’s really unfortunate because it distracts from the facts of the story.

      Facts like: Michael Brown was a violent criminal who attacked a police officer both physically and verbally. Of course, I wish Officer Wilson had found a way to neutralize the threat without killing the guy, but I can’t really fault him for what he did based on the evidence that has been presented.

      There are obviously trust issues between the poor black communities and police. Just look at what happened in Cleveland yesterday. But I don’t see how protesting the death of a violent criminal is going to mend those fences.

      This whole thing just makes me really really sad.

  10. Debbie Key says:

    I stood up to the racists and in addition to being insulted, I was actually threatened. Oddly enough, the guy who threatened me called foul when I sent him a PM with the screen shots.

  11. veronica says:

    I agree with everything you say in this article, with one exception. I was one of the people who was trying to get home when a group of protesters laid down in the middle of I-24 and refused to move. While I would have happily marched with them in protest of the Ferguson cop getting away with murder, this was not the way to do it. The delay and back up on I-24 and the surrounding streets caused by this protest was not a productive way to express their frustration. It just made me angry at the protesters. Surely there is a better way to draw attention and create change.

  12. Dear God, I cannot believe this much evil really does exist.

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