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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri is Everyone's Concern

Howard University students protesting the death of Michael Brown.
"Don't shoot"

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with a friend in a coffee shop to do some work, and he started streaming the press conference from the Ferguson Police Department providing some follow up to the death of Mike Brown (at the hands of a police officer.) Immediately, I was uncomfortable. We were in a room with a few other people of various backgrounds, and for whatever reason, I felt it was inappropriate to draw attention to our concern about the passing of this young black teenager. I didn't want to ruffle feathers; I wanted people to believe that I was one of the safe Black people that wouldn't make them face hard questions.

Over the past few days, it's been a lot easier for me to discuss my sorrow at the passing of Robin Williams versus the death of Mike Brown. While both are tragic, Robin Williams's death is a much safer topic. Robin William's suicide wasn't particularly controversial and didn't rile up strong opinions that varied depending on your race, gender, or socioeconomic status. But Mike Brown... that's a whole different matter. It involves topics that make us all squirm - race relations, police brutality, perceptions of black men in the media, and more. So I kept quiet.

I have a disproportionate amount of friends who happen to be attorneys that taught me to reserve my opinion until the facts have been revealed and made clear. So when people ask me, even now, what are my thoughts about Ferguson, Missouri and Mike Brown, I respond "I don't know." It ensures I don't appear apathetic but also gives me an out in providing any real opinions or thoughts.

However one question has emerged for me and bugged me as I read the articles and saw the raw passion, anger and frustration from folks I know.

"Where are all the non-Black people in this discussion?" 

I'm seeing posts from Howard University students, the Black students at Harvard Law, and other Black friends of mine, but almost nothing from others. (I say almost, because I read a few articles like this). I am most frustrated by the deafening silence from the Christian community, a group called and committed to serving the "least of these."

I realize that by both stating that I am afraid to discuss it and also voicing my frustration about non-Blacks silence, I appear somewhat hypocritical. However, I believe one fuels the other. If the death of Mike Brown was met with concern, peaceful protests and a collective consciousness of the reality of race relations and police brutality in America by ALL kinds of people, I believe it'd be easier for us all to speak up and grow.

I've used this blog space, my social media accounts, and my voice to advocate for fair treatment of undocumented citizens, (namely the Central American children escaping horrific conditions), same sex couples fighting for marriage equality, and victims of genocide in Syria. As a human and a Christian, I believe that I am required to care for more than those who are exactly like me. I welcome this obligation; I chose it!

I chose USC for my graduate studies because it boasts a significant amount of international students.
I chose Oasis LA because it is the most racially diverse church I've ever attended.
I chose my hipster side of town in Los Angeles, because living with different kinds of people is the best way to develop a genuine understanding and empathy for others.

Now I wonder, when will others choose us? 

I applaud those individuals -of all races- who have had the courage to speak up, do something and inspire meaningful change in regards to social justice and equality. In many ways, your bravery exceeds mine and I strive to be like you.

Update: This is one of those times I am elated to be proven wrong. A photo captured by @darling_darla  at the #NMOS14 (National Moment of Silence) protest in DC shows that a diversity of folks care: