Michael Brown reminds us--as did Treyvon Martin--that truly to address racial bias in our country, we must rethink our entire systemic structure. It's complicated. Our neighborhoods, prisons, education practices, public transportation, minimum wages, and laws all need over overhauling. We need to end the unfair suspicion of young black men (inculcated into us by the narratives told by our dominant power structure) by integrating them--and all people of color--fully into society. We whites need to listen hard and look closely for the numerous ways that all people do not enjoy the same opportunities or benefit of doubt that we take for granted, that the cards are stacked against some before they ever leave their mothers' wombs.
The problem can seem crippling, insurmountable, hopeless. Where do we even begin?
It is so simple. We love. We love Michael Brown and Treyvon Martin and their mamas as much as we do our own families. We see every person of every skin color as an individual with a unique story to tell, a special gift to offer the world, a blessed creation of God. To change systems, we must begin with individuals. To move mountains, we first move rocks.
We know all of this already. I firmly believe this conviction is in all of guts, at the most fundamental levels of our being: we are made to love one another. When we do not love each other, it is because we are afraid or do not understand, and so the solution is to get to know, especially those who are not like us, who come from different backgrounds or cultures or sides of the railroad tracks. It can be too abstract to think about loving Michael Brown as my our son or best friend or neighbor when we live 600 miles away from Ferguson, but we can get to know someone down the street--or several miles away, or across town, or however far we must go to encounter and engage that someone. These cannot be token relationships, allowing us to feel better about ourselves because we can each say, "Oh, I have a black friend; I'm not racist." No, these must be relationships undergirded with respect and dignity (nut necessarily even affection), which are the hardest but only authentic kind of relationships.
Oh, God, help us to remember to love--to love so fiercely that when any member of our human family suffers, we feel it too. For as long as one of us fails to thrive, our work is not done, our hearts are not yet whole.