"A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect." -W.E.B. Du BoisFerguson-verdict, tears rolling down my cheeks. And my eyes flicker to the clock as it flicks past 11:30pm, and I think about tomorrow morning. Because at 6:45am, Ashton and I will get in the car and ride to work together. And, rest assured, Ashton will know what the jury said; and he will know with equal clarity what their decision says about his life, and how much this nation values it.
I wonder, will we ride in silence; seat warmers on, while the soothing voices of NPR come from the radio?
I hope not. I am just unsure what I can say in the harsh morning light following such a dark night.
I could ask him what he thinks and feels, but I already know the answer: he will be angry. And we ride together to a job we secured for him, from a room we loan him, with lunches packed with food we bought him. No matter how hard I try to make it otherwise, he will feel indebted. How can he really express the ways that our very relationship somehow perpetuates this culture. One where his life is less, where he always has to accept help and know "his place" in the relationship and in this world.
Ok, I think. Instead, I'll tell him how I feel. I'll tell him about the tears I taste pooling salty beneath my lips. The ways I wake weary this morning because my heart can't rest over the grand-jury's decision. I'll explain his infinite worth, no matter what anyone says. I'll try not to cry anew or feel embarrassed when I explain how angry I am, and how unfair it all swells day-after-day. I'll tell him he can, and he certainly should, fight for justice; but to do it smart and careful, and without hating white people.
But still, I fear I will sound only like another white voice reminding him to know his place. Like someone who fears his power and his righteous indignation because I know where it might take him. A swirling cycle that pulls us all down to the lowest common denominator. Because he, of course, is right. My tears flow because I know and deeply love him, and so many who look like him. But not because I have actual skin in the game. Not because I fear how police officers might respond to me or Adam, or what might happen to Caden if he finds himself walking in a hoodie on a dark night. Not because I do not have the choice to turn and walk away.
Then, what can I say as we drive through our city swathed in hopeful early morning light?
I have no answers, no words, no quick tricks or solutions to assuage my grief and guilt, nor his pain.
I don't have answers, but I do have Jesus. I have the promise that He will make things new, and that His peace passes all earthly understanding. I have a growing realization that the most fragile things like hope and peace end up the most powerful. I have forgiveness for the ways I have been complicit, and for the places I have been unmoved.
And I have a reminder that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities that refuse to allow justice or reconciliation.
Because the real question, of course, is not actually whether justice has or has not been served. It is whether or not we will now stand together as followers of Jesus against this darkness. Whether or not we will be willing to share sweat and tears, running together down black and white skin alike, in ways that move to break through His Kingdom right here on earth as it is in Heaven.
So perhaps all I can tell Ashton tomorrow is that I am willing, and I hope that he will be too. That together we can offer the world the kind of hope it so desperately needs this dark night. That as advent begins, we can sit in the lament that is not without hope. That we will wait expectantly for the One who will right all wrongs, but as we wait we will act. And we will not move away from the pain and hard conversations and work, but towards it.