Is this a Dialogue or an Argument?

Is this a Dialogue or an Argument?

cophugIn the wake of the grand jury decision in Ferguson and the civil unrest taking place across the country, I believe that what is needed most is candid conversations. I believe that too many of us know what we think about this issue, feel passionately about it, and therefore are more prone to argument than dialogue. Myself included.

As Christians, it’s okay for us to disagree. It’s not okay for us to continually demean those we disagree with, or refuse to make attempts to expand our perspective. Our unwillingness to have candid and loving dialogue will only intensify these race tensions. If we think the same thing about Ferguson that we did 2 weeks ago, we’re doing something wrong.

So for the sake of open, candid discussion, I’d like to share some news reports which give varying perspectives. I’ll briefly share my thoughts as context to the articles… but I share these resources to expand the scope and add value to our continued dialogue.

  1. We are all getting incomplete narrative on the details of the incident from our chosen media outlets. Many of us are still unclear on simple issues like where Michael Brown was shot. Was he shot while leaning in the squad car? Was he shot from close range as he was charging? Shaun King reports that he was actually shot about 150 feet away from the squad car.
  2. One of the things people are upset about is the fact that Michael Brown’s dead body laid uncovered for almost 4 hours after his death. This story from the medical transporter shares why it could not be transported.  His explanation is understandable. What it doesn’t explain is why the body was never covered. When is it proper police protocol to leave a body exposed for so long? Never. Some may feel that it was an inhumane display for onlookers what happens when you mess with the police.
  3. Much has been made of the “looters and rioters,” as if this were the only response to what has taken place. First let me say that looting and rioting is the wrong response. It is counter-productive and dangerous. However, these looters represent a very small percentage of those protesting. Here is an ABC News story about the countless peaceful protests that are taking place across the country. Although the media can’t always tell the difference between the two, we should be able to.
  4. Try to listen to what people are really saying and consider how people are really feeling. People are holding up signs that say things like #blacklivesmatter. This is a clear indication that they don’t feel like the lives of our young boys are valuable to the majority culture.
  5. What the news also doesn’t cover is how peaceful protests become violent protests when protestors are treated like animals. Here is a blog from a white brother who was involved with his wife in a peaceful protest in Los Angeles. He explains how they were surrounded, harassed, provoked and wrongfully arrested by Los Angeles police.
  6. Let me be clear that much of the unrest is due to what many feel is an unjust system for black men in America. This does not mean that all black people feel that all white police are bad. In the same way that all white police do not feel that all black men are “thugs.” Here is one of the most moving images of the past week, as a Portland Police Officer shares a hug with a young black boy. If only we could all embrace like this.
  7. I found the Saint Louis Rams’ demonstration to be moving and appropriate. I found the Saint Louis Police Department’s response to it to be predictable.
  8. I beg to differ with a statement in their release. This demonstration does not assert that Michael Brown was innocent. It asserts that his crimes did not justify his death.
  9. I’m also surprised by some of the language Jeff Roorda used in the response. The statement about “violent thugs burning down buildings” was so un-called-for that I checked the source of this article to see if it was a fake. It’s not.
  10. While he makes some valid points in the comparison to the Trayvon Martin case, I disagree with Morning Joe, who looks at this as a cut & dry “thug vs. cop” situation where the thug got what he deserved.
  11. Many people are reading the grand jury transcript like it is the Bible, without considering the possibility that the testimonies present a shaded view of what actually happened. Many questions still arise from the grand jury testimonies. For instance, why were there so many witnesses that were not interviewed? Why does the prosecutor sound so much like a defense attorney? What is the ratio of fatal shootings that do not make it past the grand jury? What about this report from MSNBC that the grand jury was presented for consideration an obsolete statute, despite the fact that the Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional in 1985?
  12. Finally, the most complete, thoughtful, and Christian response I have heard came from what some many consider an uncommon source. Thanks to NFL Player Benjamin Watson for sharing his thoughts.
  13. He makes the assertion that we need to be sympathetic and willing to see varying perspectives. It was so great to see him represent this type of attitude and the Christian faith on television!

This entry was strictly for news stories that would contribute to further discussion. Later this week, I’ll share some blogs and articles from Christian leaders that I’ve found helpful to give us further perspective.

So what do you think? How can we continue honest and open dialogue? What would you add to the discussion? What are some of my blind spots? Are you set in your perspective? Is it possible that our perspective is shaded by our prejudices? Our chosen news outlets? Our anger? I think further conversation can cover our blind spots.

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