I Won’t Be Going to Ferguson

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The sky is grey. Cloudy. The fog has settled in over the land, like it does here every August, startling the tourists who shiver in their shorts, thinking they were coming to “sunny California!” not knowing that we get our sun at other times of year here by the bay.

My heart is simultaneously light and heavy.

The lightness comes from my shift at the soup kitchen yesterday afternoon, and from dinner with one of my beloveds. And from sitting at my desk, cup of tea easily at hand, as I work.

The heaviness comes from the events of the last two weeks. The heaviness comes from thinking about Ferguson, Missouri, but not only Ferguson… I wrote about race in America last week and hope you read that piece.

Last night, my beloved told me not to look at my Twitter feed because it causes me to lose sleep. I’ve been scanning it at night to follow events on the ground in Ferguson. So, last night, I read a book instead, and looked at the Twitter news after my morning prayers and meditation. Reports included this harrowing account by activist Rosa Clemente. And tweets by a local activist saying that police showed up at the church where they were sorting supplies and pointed a gun at her. Journalist Elon James White whom I follow is already complaining of PTSD. Not his words, but those are the symptoms he describes.

Yesterday, I got a notice from a friend. People are organizing from around the country to go to Ferguson. I paused. Should I go?

Pretty quickly I decided no. And here is why: It isn’t that the people of Ferguson don’t need and deserve our love, support, and help. They do. I’ve been doing what I can for them: sending supplies, specifically Maalox to cut the teargas, spreading the word about the need for therapists to take phone calls, doing anti-racism education on my Patheos column in the comments. Small efforts, sandwiched between the rest of my life activities, far from the center of their world.

I won’t be going to Ferguson because the people there are doing a tremendous amount on their own. I want to support their efforts. I don’t think they need me there.

Mostly, though…

I won’t be going to Ferguson because systemic racism exists where I live, too.

Young black and brown men and women are killed by police forces for no reason here, too. It is happening all around us. Unless you live in a rich, white, gated community, it is happening where you live, or at very least, one neighborhood over.

I won’t be going to Ferguson because we all need to organize in our home towns.

We need to reach out to our neighbors and say, “Isn’t it time this stops?” We need to insist, loudly, that we will no longer pay to have our friends executed for no other reason than some officer got pissed off, or has PTSD from fighting in Iraq and blacked out, or hasn’t been trained in proper interventions.

Besides sending supplies to Ferguson, here is what I intend to do:

  • This evening, I will likely take off early from work to join a march and rally. I dislike marches, but sometimes it feels important to let the community know there is support.
  • I’ll continue with the New Jim Crow Study Group so we can deepen our understanding of the ways in which these systems of stop and frisk and mass incarceration affect our country. Please join us.
  • I will check to see when the next local meeting to organize to change our sheriff department’s policies is happening. We took August off, and clearly need to get back to it.
  • I will organize a group – large or small – to meditate in front of the Urban Shield conference in Oakland on September 5th. Perhaps this year, like last year, we will read the names of those killed by police in California. Organizing info is here.
  • I will continue to examine the roots of my own fear and assumptions, and bring them to the light of consciousness. I will encourage others to do the same.

I look forward to reading your ideas on how you might be organizing locally.

I want to read how you are trying to interact in your community in ways that share greater amounts of love and solidarity.

What is your journey? What are your thoughts? What are your actions?

Please, I ask of you, don’t tell me, “Not All White People” or “Not All Cops.” This is not about individuals, this is about systems. Systems we’ve created together. Systems that are now running on their own, out of control.

I am with you, in solidarity and love. I am with you, seeking justice.

Love to you, Ferguson. Love to you, Los Angeles. Love to you, Chicago. Love to you, Baltimore. Love to you, Dallas. Love to you, Detroit. Love to you, Oakland…

Love to us all.

It is time for truth. It is time for action. Only then will come the time for reconciliation.

 

Ferguson Market via Antonio French