Last November, the world watched as America erupted in reaction to the grand jury’s decision not to prosecute officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Since the unfortunate incident occurred in August of 2015, anticipation had steadily mounted, accompanied by weeks of protests, and emotionally-charged debate.
Like many Americans, I eagerly awaited the decision. And like many Americans, I found myself a conflicted ball of emotions when I heard the news. I had just finished a Monday Night Football game, yet football faded away as I turned on the television and witnessed the sights and sounds of a country still divided by race. Over the next day, as honestly as I could, I wrote down my emotions and posted them to Facebook. This is what I wrote:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I’M FRUSTRATED because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police-citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from the safety of movie sets and music studios.
I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law-abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law-breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I’M SAD because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I’M SYMPATHETIC because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self-defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR, maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I’M OFFENDED because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I’M CONFUSED because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policemen abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I’M INTROSPECTIVE because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
I’M HOPELESS because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and, at some point, my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I’M HOPEFUL because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends, and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
I’M ENCOURAGED because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through His son, Jesus, and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.
Under Our Skin
Over the following weeks and months, I had the opportunity to share my share my thoughts about this topic in a variety of venues and many even suggested that I write a book. This was never even a thought, but God opened doors and events took place that led me to move forward with Tyndale House and embark on this project. As a husband and father of five young children, I understand that our children are watching us, imitating us, and depending on us to teach them how to confront these recurring racial issues that do not seem to be getting better with time, so that their generation can carry the banner forward in this arena. As a Christian, I understand that it is vitally important that we exercise the love of Christ in this area where repeated offense and conflict has made unity so elusive.The time has come to peel back the layers of our own attitudes and beliefs and to be honest when it comes to race.
I wrote Under Our Skin because we need to have an open national dialogue about the hot-button issues of race that affect us all. I hope this book will challenge people to have serious, healthy discussions about race and racism. I hope this book will encourage people of all races to have these discussions without fear of saying the wrong thing, insulting others, or being condemned by people who don’t agree. The time has come to peel back the layers of our own attitudes and beliefs and to be honest when it comes to race. Only then will we experience the change we desperately need.
I’m thankful for this opportunity and I know that dialogue, repentance, and reconciliation are only part of the equation. The other is a change of heart. While expanding on the emotions of my Facebook post, this book will include examples from my personal and professional life that will challenge how we think about race in general and how we respond to the racially charged incidents we continue to see on the evening news.
While you may agree with some of my points and disagree with others, I am confident that Under Our Skin will not only challenge you but will also inspire you to discover how we, collectively, can bridge the divide that continues to separate us.
To order the book visit, www.underourskinbook.com and [email protected] on Twitter for additional information on book signings and media appearances. Under Our Skin went on sale today—almost one year to date from the Ferguson Decision.
Have you found yourself wanting to talk to your kids about race relations, but you’re not sure what to say or where to start? It can be a confusing and challenging topic, so we created a resource to help you written by Clyde Christensen and Tony Dungy. Click here to sign up for our Race Conversations For Families resource.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you respond when you meet someone different from you?”