“If you’re not angry, you’re either a stone or you’re too sick to be angry. You should be angry…You must NOT be bitter…Bitterness is like cancer, it eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger, yes; you write it, you paint it, you dance it, you march it, you vote it, you do EVERYTHING about it, you talk it. Never stop talking it.” –Maya Angelou, in conversation with Dave Chapelle on Sundance Channel’s Iconoclasts
At the end of today…I am angry.
At the end of today, there will be cries for Officer Darren Wilson to be arrested for killing Michael Brown…and most likely they will go unanswered.
At the end of today, there will be tears and gas and, probably, yes probably, blood spilt in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri…and it will in all likelihood all happen again tomorrow.
At the end of today, a community will take to the streets demanding to have their voices heard and their injuries healed….again, and again, and again.
At the end of today for most of us, in so many ways…it will have been just another Tuesday.
I thought about going to Ferguson. I found airline tickets, tickets I could actually afford, a plan I could pay for, and I thought about flying to the midwest and joining the protestors in the street. I thought about how good it would feel to join the protests, to show support with my physical presence, how good it would make me feel to be out on the front lines, how much better it would feel doing something rather than nothing. And that was when I realized I have no business being in Ferguson at all. Because what is happening there should not in any way be allowed to make me feel better.
See, if I were to travel to Ferguson, what would happen? One of at least 3 things: 1) Nothing. Maybe I’d get my picture taken, maybe I’d get to talk to some interesting people, possibly I would get to lend support to folks in need of it…but at the end of the day, I’d waltz into town, and then leave again, with nothing much having been accomplished. 2) I’d get tear gassed or struck with bean bags, or any number of violent things that are happening to people who live in that community…and I’d get some minister street cred for having “been there” and “done that,” but it would have been things I literally paid $800 to bring upon myself…vastly different than the folks who live and march and work there. And/Or 3) I’d get arrested. And as much as we should be suspicious of a police force that arrests journalists and Holocaust survivors, and as much as the police reaction to the protestors in Ferguson is completely unjust…it’s safe to say that we are not, in the least, scandalized by putting “innocent” people in jail.
For me, any/all of these outcomes would be quite eventful, something very unique to put in the diary. In Ferguson and in far too many other places for far too many precious people in our country…it literally happens every day.
And that’s the message we all have to spread about Ferguson: It’s not historic, it’s normal. The injustice there, the frustration there, the violence there, the anger there…it’s normal. Right now there’s an event making headlines, but we are witnessing external displays of long-held, long-lived, and age old frustration, anger, and abuse. What’s happening there is happening not because of 1 tragedy, but as a cumulative result of ALL the tragedies that literally happen every day.
So today I did not go to Ferguson, because going there would make me feel better, and it would give me a great story to tell…but it would be the wrong story. The story I need to tell is this:
Today I woke up and made breakfast, gave my girlfriend a ride to work, prepared myself for a busy day ahead, and then went about that day as scheduled. For me, this was just another Tuesday.
And at the same time, people who are just as normal as me, people who are just going about their day and doing their jobs, are being carted off to jail for it. Are being tear gassed for it. Are, yes, being shot and killed for it.
And, so, I’m angry. Yes, me, white and privileged, ordained minister and disaffected youth, well-to-do adult and child of modest means, passionate defender of justice and potential all-star hipster…I. Am. Angry. I am angry at my country for the sins of oppression and annihilation that we, not only have never really repented, but continue on with today. I am angry at myself for being so complicit in so many types of systemic injustice. And I am angry with God for not stepping in directly and rectifying this shit.
I. Am. Angry.
And what do I do with my anger? How do I vent it? How do I USE it? WHERE GOES MY ANGER?
This is the 2nd Tuesday that Michael Brown hasn’t lived. The 2nd Tuesday of unrest in Ferguson, MO. It’s the 1,675th-ish Tuesday that I have lived without any effort to live it, and without any fear of it being my last one.
I caught a quote in this morning’s Boston Globe, in an article by Akilah Johnson who is reporting from Ferguson: “What they failed to realize is you got a bunch of people out here that would rather cause anarchy than go back to business as usual,” Toriano Johnson said as he cut a client’s hair Monday at Primetime Barbershop, which is on West Florissant Avenue, the epicenter of the ongoing unrest. “It’s like a sleeping giant has been woken up.”
To carry on with business as usual while injustice rages on is to be asleep.
To feel nothing for the countless who suffer from racism, poverty, and all manner of inequality is to be a stone.
To hear of the indignity and oppression of so many of God’s precious people in our world, our country, our cities, our homes…and NOT be angry? That’s a symptom of a sickness that could very well kill us all.
So at the end of this very normal day…I find myself doing something rather than nothing. Tonight, I pray my anger. I pray to remain awake. I pray to remain broken hearted and agitated. I pray to remain angry…but never bitter. I pray this might be the last Tuesday that is just another Tuesday.
Gracious God, protect your people this night. Hold your beloved close. Disarm those who would abuse their power, and raise up the powerless. Allow the fires of anger to ignite healing flames of justice and restoration. Let me not be consumed by bitterness…but light a flame within me that can grow large enough to consume the deadly illness of apathy. Keep me awake, with my eyes set to your horizon, God, until we see a Tuesday that is NOT just another Tuesday, but a DAY of JUSTICE…for everyone.
may it be so, may it be so, may it be so….