After #Ferguson

So, when Ferguson unfolded a year ago, I wrote an article not long after titled Has The Church Learned Anything From Ferguson? I thought about writing a part two... what the Church should learn, could learn, ought to learn (you get the point), but instead I thought I would tear a page out of #FergusonTaughtMe and talk about 5 ways Ferguson has impacted me. 

1. Darren Wilson is not a monster; he is normal and that is terrifying. I would rather Wilson be a tyrant, a monster, a dragon who must be slayed so that our little black village can feel safe again. But Darren Wilson is quite simply human. He is a human who exercised power given to him by the state to take a life when he deems necessary. He was free to see Mike Brown as monstrous. He was free to see Mike Brown not just as 'superhuman' but not human at all- demonic with powers beyond what we mere mortals understand. He was free to decide. Take a life or not. And he made a decision. In the year since Ferguson, we have clearly seen that Wilson is no anomaly. We have literally watched black bodies forced to bear state sanctioned dominance. All thats required is a good story. He reached for my weapon. She assaulted me. He tried to get the taser. She was resisting arrest. Harsh dominance, cool cover-ups, and a heart stops beating. We have all watched white supremacy and anti-blackness at work. We have learned that this most unholy couple knows no boundaries. south. north. east. west. city. suburbs. daylight. moonlight. No good thing comes from unrecognized action steeped in white supremacy and entrenched in anti-blackness. So I am developing a certain urgency around calling these out in all of us. I am almost defiant about it. If you dont want me to say the phrase "white supremacy" from your stage, dont invite to me an event. Because I must. I must call out this principality because white supremacy is the enemy within all of us who are "normal". We must choose to uproot it daily or we too will be capable of erasing and silencing lives. So I am saying it... often. 

2. I have never been more aware of the importance of self-care. I know I have been talking about self-care for a long time. But the truth is I always thought of self care as something I do during tense times, when the world is darkest. But there has been a remarkable shift in my personal need to be gentle with myself daily. It is no longer an option to wait until things fall apart. By then too much damage has been done- the well from which I would write, speak, pray, stay engaged is more like a puddle. I cannot do this work from an empty well. So here I am. Taking breaks from social media, not writing on every tragedy, and finding personal ways to be loving to myself. 

3. I have been deeply moved by the tenacity of #ferguson and #blacklivesmatter. Both have been  inspiring communities. The level of creativity that has been displayed through protests, teach-ins, workshops, Moral Mondays, writing and the use of social media... My goodness. The intellectualism combined with emotional truth-telling about the black experience in America has produced a number of tears (and a number of book purchases) in my life. #Ferguson also taught me to re-examine the ways economic oppression is still at work in black communities. The presence of military weaponry in #ferguson is still shocking to me. The police response to community members is still shocking to me. The DOJ report on #Ferguson is still shocking to me. But I needed to know. We needed to know. Now there is no turning back. I must continue to connect the dots from history to present. 

4. I am scared. I hate to write this one, but the level of fear I have carried with me over the last year is unlike anything Ive experienced before. I used to pass a police car, glance in my mirror and not think about it again. But not anymore. Now my heart beats fast. A knot forms in my stomach. My eyes must confirm multiple times that I am not being followed. I have to convince myself that I am okay. When my husband leaves the house I no longer say, "Goodbye" or "Have a nice day". Now the last thing I say to him is, "Be safe." or "Come back to me." Sometimes I even make him promise. I was on the phone with my father. He told me he was in a pretty rural part of the state and going into a store. I stretched out our conversation so that I would be on the phone until he was back in his car. I ask my husband (an attorney) about multiple police encounter scenarios; what can I do or should I do if I get pulled over? What is legal? When can I ask to call him? I am literally putting myself in the place of people who are now dead, wondering if there is any way I can protect myself, escape, live. I hope the fear wont last forever. But maybe I should be afraid. Maybe the fear keeps the urgency alive. 

5. Racial justice is far more urgent to me than it ever was before. I have been passionate about racial justice for a long time, but #ferguson taught me that I need to be urgent. Lives are at stake. And I feel the urgency beyond police encounters. There is so much work to be done, so much to dismantle, so much to unlearn. White supremacy is killing us. That matter has always been urgent, but #Trayvon and #MikeBrown have pushed a seed of urgency deep with in me. I would rather have them here, back in their mothers arms. I would rather not know the names Eric Garner or John Crawford or Sandra Bland. I would rather not have the phrase #Charleston9 at my disposal. Id rather there be life. But while I am still here, still breathing, I am determined to produce good fruit. It will never ever be perfect, but I hope it will be good. 

Austin Brown