I'm a writer. And to make matters worse, I write about connectedness. About the relationships that bind us to other people in our communities. So it'd be hard for me to NOT write about Ferguson.
But the more I scrolled through my social media feeds, the less I felt like posting anything.
There was already SO MUCH being said.
Such a passionate mix of messages lit up my screen. There were frustrated, angry, grief-filled protests from passionate friends who believed Officer Wilson should've been indicted for using unnecessary force against an unarmed black male. There were also impatient, antagonistic, polarizing posts from other good people who deemed the protests to be disrespectful to law enforcement and due process.
Then there's me.
Me, hair slicked back in a pony tail, cross-legged on the couch in jeans and a long-sleeved tee, with a pile and a half of folded laundry on one side and a fascinating episode of the cartoon "Paw Patrol" playing in the background -- hardly the makings of an expert on legal proceedings in police-on-civilian shootings.
So I was torn. Torn because I know it's important not to be silent in the face of tragedy or injustice. That it's not okay to live detached from the human beings around you, whose plight is tied up in yours. That it's important that white people especially speak out against racism in times like this, when tensions in many urban areas are explosively high.
I have a conscience. There are things it wants to say. But my mouth isn't qualified.
So before I say anything, I decided to challenge myself. To read ALL of the evidence, testimony, and legal arguments presented by both sides in the Ferguson case.
So today I'm reading.
The first volume was 82 pages long. The second one was 194. There are 22 more volumes after that. And it doesn't stop there. There are also 22 supplementary reports. And THEN, there are 32 documents that capture witness testimony.
Yep. It's a MAMMOTH undertaking, but I believe it is justified. Ferguson is a mammoth event in our lifetime.
The fact that these reports are even publicly available just underscores that. It's unusual for courts to allow public access to these sorts of records, but seemingly -- because of the importance of this decision on the national landscape -- it was deemed important to allow the public to investigate and seek to understand for themselves.
Ferguson will be a milestone -- good or bad -- in our country's history of relationships and I have a mind, for whatever small part I play in it, to make it a forward-moving marker on my personal timeline. I want it to become a landmark event that I learn and grow from and that I encourage my country to learn and grow from too.
So my quest for justice is dependent on a quest for information. And I intend to complete both.
I posted the note below on my Facebook page. And now I'm going to be reading for a while. If you don't know what to think about Ferguson, then I invite you to join me. If you have a strong opinion about Ferguson? Well, then it's even more important that you join me.
The more informed we are, the better advocates we will be. The more we understand, the more good we can do.
If you'd like to join me, please feel free to leave a comment on my blog or on my social media profiles to let me know you're reading along. And if you already KNOW you don't have the time to take in all this reading, stop back here and read my summaries as I go.
My Facebook Post Today
Although I am tempted to declare I have the easy, "obvious" answers to events like #Ferguson, I recognize that people like myself would probably be wise to spend the hours (days?) it takes to review the evidence (linked below) that has been made publicly available before we announce verdicts from our living room soapboxes.
My heart favors the marginalized, and looks for ways to platform those who've not always had a voice. But even in that yearning for justice, it's easy for me, and for other people on both sides, to read a few articles or watch a few newscasts (perhaps from our favorite party-aligned sources) and criticize the people (both legal players and advocates/protestors) who bear the weight of sorting out justice. It's much harder and way more time consuming to dig in, with due diligence, and commit to educating ourselves. But if we really want to honor the lives and experiences of those at stake here, and put up the strongest fight for enduring justice not just for ourselves but for everyone who lives in our nation, we will set aside the time to wrestle with everything in these documents. We will thoughtfully turn them over again and again in our consciences, filter them in light of our nation's history, and pray for humility and mercy as we seek the words that will advance the cause of good today.
There is weighty stuff at stake here, friends. This isn't a sensational headline or political competition in God's eyes. What happens next is about far more than just the events of one day in one town, it's about the state of our hearts, how we love people going forward, and whether we allow ourselves to be further transformed.
The aftermath of Ferguson shows-without a doubt-how much tension still swells in this country, and how far we have to go in learning to be good neighbors and create safe neighborhoods for all people. Regardless of official court decisions, I pray we can one day look back at Ferguson as a time when our country learned to really listen and try to understand those unlike ourselves.
Here's a link to the court documents which contain lawyer arguments, witness testimony, and evidence presented by BOTH sides.