Seeking first to understand

August 20th, 2014

Some words on Ferguson.

morning glory

There are so many words I’ve started to to type into little boxes this week, then stopped.

I’ve stopped because I’m afraid they might be the wrong words and add to the pain of people who are already hurting, or enrage people who are already angry.

I’ve stopped because they might be cheap words, and I don’t want to be that person whose opinions are forcefully voiced, and faintly lived.

I’ve stopped because I want to examine what I feel and believe before I share what I think, and it takes time to search out the deep, dark places.

I’ve stopped because the bewildering, complex puzzle of race in the United States is something my brain really wants to pull apart and solve, and I become so absorbed in the intellectual exercise, I forget that there are people trapped inside.

I’ve stopped because the little boxes are too small for something so big.

I’ve stopped because I sincerely believe it’s time for me to listen, though holding back words doesn’t come easily to me. I’ve been reciting the “St. Francis” prayer a lot.

I don’t want the silence to say things I don’t intend, though. So I’m allowing myself a few words here, in this slightly roomier box, to make it clear, to those who’ve wondered, that I am talking and thinking and feeling a great deal about the crisis in Ferguson, and the questions it begs of us all. That my understanding of systemic racism, and my own part in it, is very much a work in progress, and not something I want to work through out loud on twitter or Facebook, scattering the seeds of that growth on such scorched and thorny ground.

And anyway, there are other people whose words in this matter are more appropriate than mine at this time. Here are links to some powerful ones, and if you haven’t read them before, I hope you’ll click through to reach each post in entirety, seeking first to understand and to love.


Make me an instrument of peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

where there is injury, pardon

If the continuing conversation about racism upsets you, take a second to imagine what it’s like for the black people who deal with racism everyday, and who are tired of thinking and talking about it, but discuss it anyway because for them, it’s not just a dinner table dialogue. 

“11 Things White People Should Stop Saying to Black People Immediately”by Derek Clifton

where there is doubt, faith

where there is despair, hope

where there is darkness, light

where there is sadness, joy.

I’m tired of walking through the world constantly aware of how my blackness is being perceived, how my interracial marriage is being perceived.  The fact is, whether it is being perceived positively or negatively, if I’m in the United States, I am always aware of it, and I’m tired.

“Affected” by Karen Walrond

Grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console

to be understood as to understand

to be loved as to love.

If you want to know what to do, my answer is this: risk death. Risk the death of your reputation. Risk the death of close ties to your family. Risk the death of your dream home and “safe” neighborhoods. Risk the death of a large congregation. Risk the death of your big donations. Risk the death of your worldview and perspective on American history. Risk the death of your comfort in majority, dominant spaces. Risk the death of your leadership role, of your speaking engagement, of your writing opportunity. Risk never being invited back to the conference. Risk the death of your social and professional circles. Risk what we risk just trying to live. 

Black Bodies, White Souls by Austin Channing

For it is in giving that we receive

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned

it is in dying we are born again to eternal life.



2 Responses to “Seeking first to understand”

  1. marilee pittman says:

    You are my hero.

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