What to do about the Racial Divide #Ferguson

I realize I run the risk of sounding foolish here—I am a 60-something, white, middle-class mom and Grandma, far from the fray of race riots. The world of Ferguson, MO and the unrest there are hundreds of miles away from my comfortable, safe living room.

But sometimes one of the most dangerous things you can do is Say Something.

And as a believer in Jesus I MUST, as I’m pretty sure Jesus is for ALL people EVERYWHERE, no matter their skin color.

So at the risk of sounding patronizing or condescending, I will use the ‘weapon’ I have—my words, which are often the most powerful weapon of all.

My world the last three weeks has been the four walls of a Summer School classroom. I have been teaching reading and vocabulary to Korean students, introducing them to English Literature and our language, helping them wrap their brains around what it means to be American.
Or something like that.

These children—fifth & sixth graders and a class of middle schoolers—are still very much Korean.  Some of them only arrived in the States 3 or 4 weeks ago, some of them have lived here for years. But their first culture is not the one they live in. 

They are outsiders, and I’m beginning to understand a little bit what that is like.

It is good for me to be here.

If you’ll bear with the ‘book report’, I believe there might be some encouragement here. As I listened to the Holy Spirit and pondered what my thoughts might be–ANY thoughts—about the racial unrest in Ferguson, MO, I think I heard a message. 

The book I’m teaching from is ‘When my Name Was Keoko’ by Linda Sue Park, Newbery author of “A Single Shard”; I’d never heard of Ms. Park before this class and am glad to have been introduced to her.
The story line deals with the fate of a particular Korean family prior to and during and after World War II.  Park bases her story on the real life events of her parents, to whom the book is dedicated.

The Japanese have invaded Korea, decimated their rice crops, stolen the peoples’ names—forcing them to take Japanese names and burned their country’s flag.

‘Uncle’ writes an underground newspaper and the son, Tae-yul joins the army to fight.
As my students and I have been discussing this book, the powerful issue of words versus weapons has come up many, many times. (It probably helps that I am a writer as I help them see this point.)

The daughter in the story, Sun hee, keeps a diary which the Korean police burn during a raid in the family home.
The father, Abuji, comforts her, saying, “they burn the paper not the words.”
Sun hee begins a new diary the next day,
“You burn the paper but not the words.
You silence the words but not the thoughts.
You kill the thoughts only if you kill the man.
And you will find that his thoughts rise again
In the minds of others—twice as strong as before!”

We have words, friends, the words of Jesus, the one who came to make peace.
And it lead him to the cross.

Maybe our faith has been too easy. Maybe we’re not willing to die.
Die to our comfort and our safety and our four walls of all-we-need.

If there’s a racial divide—and there is, even if it’s not in my part of the world—we need to cross it.

When you look at people, see them.

And when you see them, smile.

If they don’t return the smile, ask Jesus for eyes to see beyond the not-smile to the heart of that person.
And listen.

And if He tells you to speak, say something.
And if He tells you to pray, pray something.
And if He tells you to write, write something.
We can’t really be quiet on this one. 
Linking with Jen for Unite.

7 thoughts on “What to do about the Racial Divide #Ferguson

  1. Jody, you treat a volatile topic with soothing oil. To see PEOPLE… and if they do not smile, “…ask Jesus for eyes to see beyond the not-smile to the heart…” I think that will go a long way.

    People. Following the lead of the One who came to save them.


  2. I'm taking the advice in your last paragraph. I can't be pulled into the online fray when God has an assignment for me in my own city. I feel heartsick for Michael Brown, for Darren Wilson and his family, and for the people of Ferguson. There are no winners in this mess.


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