Ferguson Is Not Just About Race, It Is Also About Violence and We Need to Talk About Both

Sarah-Ji/Flickr
Sarah-Ji/Flickr

Let me be clear: I believe that Ferguson is about race.

I know that many people disagree with that statement, that Officer Darren Wilson’s actions were not ostensibly motivated by race, and so could not have been racist. But racism goes beyond an individual’s prejudice against people of a different color. It is a historical reality that goes back to the inception of this country, and exists not only in people’s minds but in the halls of our most powerful institutions. So even if an event is not directly motivated by personal prejudice, it can still be about race. I think Lecrae put it far better than I ever could:

When people say “why are you making this a racial thing?” They’ve unknowingly answered their own question. —@lecrae, November 25, 2014

Come to think of it, Lecrae says everything far better than I ever could.

But what I find strange about Ferguson is that no one is addressing the overarching theme to this entire tragedy: violence. Surely that is the common thread that ties all of these stories together: a young black man who commits a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store. A young white officer who felt his only recourse was to shoot that unarmed black man. A city that reacted to the killing with Molotov cocktails, and a police force that responded to the Molotov cocktails with equipment that made veterans of the Iraq war raise their eyebrows. The events of Ferguson may be about about race, but they are also about violence, and a society that seems entirely unable to react to difficult situations by any other means.

In this way, both Michael Brown and Darren Wilson are the products of our society—American society. Our country was birthed out of armed and violent rebellion. We used brutality to subjugate slaves and drive Native Americans from the lands that they had lived upon for millennia. Now, over two centuries later, we suffer more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation in the world. We have experienced more school shootings than 36 other countries combined. We have been continuously at war for 14 years. We glorify violence in nearly every form of media that we consume, from video games to movies, from television to music. Violence has so permeated our culture that there is not a single young American who has not been taught to believe that most any problem can and should be solved by throwing a punch, or else pulling a piece.

Yes, Ferguson is about racism and inequality and crime. But these conditions and sins exist in every person and every nation in the world. What sets our nation apart from others is how frequently we resort to violence in response to racism and inequality and crime. We use violence to perpetrate crime and to protest inequality, and violence to police crime and to end protest. So our problem is not just racism. It is that racism and violence continuously reinforce and exacerbate one another, making healing and progress an impossibility.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Peter W. Chin

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