Recently a friend tweeted about the jury ruling on the Ferguson indictment: "If you don't think racism in America is a problem you're either not paying attention or you're part of it." And when I saw this I thought immediately, "Yes, this." And then shortly following that thought was a second one, "Oh, ouch."
As much as I agree with her charge, it also stings a bit because I was that person just a few months ago. I was the person who preferred to downplay and gloss over race issues, I was the person who naively believed that the crusade against racism was prolonging its existence, I was the person who sighed every time an issue of depraved human nature was construed as an issue of race.
And as that person, I was defensive and put off by any judgment, implied or actual, that I was part of the problem.
A former roommate of mine feels very strongly about racism. Living with her meant that I had to listen to rants on race issues on the reg. I remember brushing my teeth and actively tuning her out because it actually made me a little annoyed that she cared so much. I could tell she thought I was part of the problem. I could tell she thought I was racist, or at least ignorant. I think she thought my "color-blind" approach was BS. So I listened to her rants defensively, focused on maintaining indifference and preserving my moral high ground.
I'm a horrible person, guys.
It was on the train ride to work a week after Mike Brown's death that I read a news article about what had happened. That's how insulated I was, that it took me a whole week before the thing hit my radar. But there I was, snot liquifying in my nose, tears dripping down my face, as I read news reports and witness accounts of the unfolding events in Ferguson. And I kept thinking, "Dear Jesus, I can't believe stuff like this still happens in this country, I can't believe I didn't know." He touched my heart and in that moment I saw things differently; I was grieved over the injustice I had denied existed.
I wouldn't necessarily count myself as one of the enlightened just yet. The pesky part of privilege is that you don't know what you don't know. I gather that I have been ignorant, but I'm still sorting out just how ignorant I've been. And I haven't the foggiest of how I can be part of His ministry of reconciliation in this. All I know is that before my heart was hard to stories of racial injustice systemic in my country, and now I ache with a sorrow I don't fully understand. My indifference is turning to empathy for people who have been systemically wronged.
But I say all of this to say that I get there are people who think "the whole Ferguson thing" is sensationalized, warped, and packaged as propaganda. I get that there are people who don't think that racism is an issue in the USA, and I opine that those people take that stance because they want to believe that racism is a thing of the past, that we're better than that. I get that because I have been and sometimes still am one of those people. And because I've hoed that row all I can say is, "Break our hearts, Oh Lord, for the sin in our land break our hearts."
So I offer this as hope. I see the grief and frustration expressed by friends whose hearts are also broken over this and other demonstrations of the injustice in our society and I aver, take heart! Jesus is softening hearts. He's softening mine. And one day, all will be healed.