Archives For Michael Brown

water fountains

There’s an art exhibit at my local art museum that features photographs from the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in all black and white. They are beautiful, emotionally captured moments in a time in our history.

Black men with crisp white shirts and tailored suits standing arm in arm in silent protest in front of a line of armed policemen. Two water fountains: one marked “white” and the other “colored.” Firemen hosing down a crowd of protesters. A beautifully dressed black woman and a little girl standing in front of a sign that reads “Colored Entrance.” A panorama of people at the Lincoln Memorial listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the March on Washington.

These photographs speak of a time in our nation that many remember and others, like myself, have learned from. They are captivating but what these photographs don’t do is show you the bigger picture. What if we were to take the lens and move back from the narrow view? What would we see?

Would we see the many races of people including whites who stood in silent protest with those well-dressed black men, also arm in arm? Could other parts of the country be captured where blacks and whites crowded a city bus, reading side-by-side the latest news of Birmingham, Alabama’s latest protest? Or could we zoom in on that panorama of people in Washington D.C. and see the kaleidoscope of various tear-stained faces as Dr. King reiterates again and again, “I have a dream…?”

The thing about history in photographs is, although poignant memories, we don’t always see the bigger picture.

How would Ferguson, Missouri be captured in all black and white from the news today?

We might see angry protestors with signs that say “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Photographs of burned down buildings or young men smashing store windows and stealing merchandise. Black men holding signs that read “Stop Killing Us!” A mother holding a picture of her son named Michael Brown killed for reasons that motivate hatred. A young police officer who will be forever haunted by that day in history.

Then what if we again, made the lens a little wider. Would we see the community of Ferguson rallying together to pick up the aftermath from violent riots? Neighbor helping neighbor (of all colors) to rebuild their city. Would we see the photograph of 12-year-old Devonte Hart from Portland Oregon hugging a white policeman after the officer reads his “Free Hugs” sign during a Ferguson related protest? Could we view the picture of the 18-year-old unarmed white teenager who was gunned down by black officer Trevis Austin? No charges were brought against Austin while another mother holds a picture of her dead son.

I read a statement after the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown. It read, “This is America, racism lives here!”

I disagree. Racism may live in part but not in the whole of this country.

That is a very broad statement with a limited view of the country that I live in.  It’s like looking only at those black and white photographs and not being able to take in the bigger picture. I am thankful for those emotional photographs in that museum. They give a snapshot of history that we should never forget. However, I refuse to live my life with only a camera-lens-limited-point-of-view. America has a much wider lens and viewing life only in black and white keeps you from seeing the beautiful world God has made. A world with a kaleidoscope of colors that celebrates people who every day look beyond the black and white, beyond the racial tension, and who proudly say, “Racism will not live here!”

Color Blind

March 27, 2012 — 8 Comments

 

I led a white privileged life! You know the one where I was raised in a white family who had the privilege of playing with kids of all races and colors and meeting people of all nationalities. Okay, maybe that’s not your typical white privileged life but it was an honor and privilege for me to be raised in this way.

I grew up in a unique environment through a ministry called Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a program that ministers to those who struggle with addictions like drug and alcohol abuse. Through this ministry, I was introduced to many wonderful people of all nationalities and colors. I grew up color blind not realizing that most people don’t have this kind of privileged life to be surrounded by diversity.

I didn’t really understand what racism was until I was taught about it at school. I heard stories from people of all nationalities in how negatively they were treated but never really experienced racism for myself. Sometimes I wonder, if I had never been taught what racism was, would it really matter? Let me explain.

I see racism in two forms. First there are Americans who are not part of the struggle and have never been part of the problem and are constantly trying to prove they are not racist. The second are those that have been hurt or mistreated because of their race and they are desperately fighting to justify their pain by bringing race to every issue. Is there a point when we need to just let it go and make color go blind?

Growing up in a diverse environment didn’t teach me anything about racism. Race was never an issue. My parents never made my color or the color of my friends an issue. It was later on in life that others made me aware of the color of my skin. It was my society that constantly tried to point out that I was ignorant of the struggle of racism because my skin had no dark pigment. How could I possibly understand?

Now, I see racism through the eyes of my children. We never make our race or the race of others an issue. We don’t bring the discussion to the table because it shouldn’t be an issue to begin with. In the 2008 election my daughter had to do a mock vote as a class. She didn’t vote for Barack Obama and when asked by her friend who she voted for, she innocently named McCain. Her friend accused her of voting that way because Obama was black. My daughter was hurt over this accusation and was inadvertently introduced to racism. How is it possible to raise my children color blind when others make race an issue at any chance?

 I am not diminishing the pain that has come from those who have made race an issue. I am not dismissing racism or making any kind of excuse for the hatred that still exists in this country. I am simply trying to share my heart over this issue. If only, as an adult, I could have kept that innocent child-like mentality that the color of skin is just a pigment. If only, as a society, we could truly be like the visual impairment of colorblindness.  This doesn’t mean that we are not supposed to see any color but simply have trouble seeing the difference between the colors. Then maybe, we could see the headlines of news stories like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown and feel the anguish over their untimely deaths not because they were black teenagers but because each one of them could have been my son, too.  Could the society we live in ever be that color blind?