The Race Card

SelmaI’m confused. How can the looting of businesses and destruction of private property in Ferguson, Missouri be justified? I understand the frustration and anger of a community that feels justice didn’t prevail in the grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager by white police officer, Darren Wilson. Because I wasn’t in the court room, and did not see the evidence, I cannot say whether that decision was, in fact, fair. How can any of us know for sure?

However, it seems that often when there is an issue such as this, protestors somehow think that rioting in the streets, destroying the businesses and properties of innocent bystanders and physically harming said individuals is okay. What sense does this make? If, in fact, the grand jury decision was unfair, does the escalating violence change anything? Does it change the minds of those on the jury or make those of us on the outside more sympathetic to their plight?

Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t understand this thinking.

If I’ve learned nothing else this year, I’ve learned that motivation makes all the difference in just about every decision we make—at least in the eyes of God. If we are moved to charitable acts, it’s what’s behind them that He cares about. Is it for our glory or His? In the same way, the incident between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown all comes down to this: What was the motivation behind the officer confronting the teen? Only Wilson truly knows if this was a case of racial profiling. But regardless, he had reason to confront Michael Brown.

It’s quite possible that if Officer Wilson saw two white teens walking down the street, his response to them would have been the same. According to his testimony, he asked the boys to walk on the sidewalk rather than in the street. Michael Brown responded with an expletive and refused. Then the officer noticed he was carrying some loose cigars and realized he and his friend could have been the perpetrators of a convenience store robbery that had just been radioed in (which turned out to be true.) When he tried to stop them, Michael Brown physically attacked the officer. Regardless of whether Wilson stopped the boys initially because they were black, it turned out they had, in fact, broken the law.

Even if Wilson was motivated to confront Brown because of the color of his skin, the teen wasn’t innocent of wrongdoing. Had he not attacked Wilson, the officer’s gun most likely wouldn’t have been drawn. Had Brown and his friend not just ripped off a convenience store, Wilson wouldn’t have had cause to try and stop them.

And yet, the rioting black community of Ferguson looks at the entire issue as one of race. And it may be. But it seems plausible that in the face of these kinds of riots, white officers are going to think twice about holding black criminals accountable for fear that the race card will be pulled. How can there be any justice if that’s the case?

As appalling as the shooting was, I find the response of those rioting to be even more reprehensible. If Martin Luther King, Jr. were here today, how would he respond? The good reverend gave his life for the rights of black people. I can only imagine what he’d say today if he was alive to witness the race riots that occur in the aftermath of what some deem to be an unjust verdict where black versus white are at issue. How is turning into a lawless mob of animals in any way benefitting their cause? It only denigrates the entire race and gives those still mired in bigotry fuel for their racial fire.

On January 9th the film Selma will be released. If you haven’t heard about it, you can click here for more information. It’s a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr., and how he led the nation to march to Selma, Alabama in 1965 in protest to racial unequality. Almost 50 years ago, he changed the direction of the Civil Rights Movement—standing up for what’s right, but never resorting to violence to make his point. Sadly, it would appear at times that we haven’t come very far. It may be that we’re in need of a dose of MLK right now!

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