This image was created by Monica Duwel, http://monicaduwel.com/
When monumental situations arise, I turn to writing to help me process my thoughts. In today’s digital age, I witnessed everyone also turn to “writing” (in some form) to process their thoughts tonight. What was dangerous about their writing is that it was in a very public, vulnerable and instantaneous forum known as “social media.” I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately about social media and what it’s become in our society, but I’ll save that for another post.
Tonight, I witnessed a man read a decision from a building that was a block away from where I grabbed coffee just a month ago. I witnessed a city that I know and love turn into confusion and chaos. But mostly what I witnessed was a lot of perspectives shown from a lot of people.
As I have grown over the past several years, I have to constantly remind myself to see things from someone else’s perspective when I have tunnel vision. It is too easy for any of us to become fixated with our own perspectives and forget the perspectives of those around us. We are all guilty of it, myself included. However, I diligently remind myself to open my eyes to those around me. How do other people perceive a situation differently from me? How do they know and see it? Why do they think the way they think? I challenge myself with these questions constantly, all in an effort to understand.
Tonight, I witnessed many perspectives on display via social media. I saw my Twitter and Facebook feed become divided in many factions on the results of the Ferguson decision. I flipped back and forth between social media feeds and the live coverage of communities in St. Louis being destroyed by fire or being overtaken by demonstrators letting their voices be heard. “Sensory overload” wouldn’t even begin to describe how many emotions I felt tonight, but that again is another topic for another post. Back to the perspectives.
For every perspective I had formed for myself on the Ferguson decision tonight, I was reminded of another side of the equation from social media. I began to draw distinctions between many perspectives. While there are countless perspectives on any one of these issues, I had to break them down into their most basic components for my mind to process:
- Many people celebrated that an innocent policeman was able to get the freedom he deserved for defending himself without having to go to court to prove it, while many people were enraged that yet another innocent young black man’s life was cut short and was given no justice in a court of law.
- Many people were offended that people were burning American flags that our military works so tirelessly to defend, while many people were burning American flags because the flag represents the freedom that they do not feel or experience in the United States of America.
- Many people were disgusted by the vandalism and destruction that people took to the streets of St. Louis, while many people were demonstrating their emotions in a way that they felt they would be heard on a larger scale to instigate change.
- Many people were perturbed that the Ferguson decision overtook every major national news outlet for the announcement, while many people clung desperately to their TVs/computers to hear a decision that would affect their community, their friends, their families, their lives.
- Many people refuse to believe the Ferguson decision was related to race but rather to the amount of evidence that was (or wasn’t) available for consideration, while many people add Mike Brown’s name to a list of far too many black men and women who have died in innocence because of their race, the perceived threat associated with it, and because of systematic oppression and inequalities.
And I could go on… I must note that I speak for no one but my thoughts and ideas in all of these statements. I recognize that there are a world of other perspectives and views on each of these statements, but I chose these in attempt to draw out the stark opposition in the perspectives I saw and came to know tonight.
I’m sitting here at 3:45 a.m. because I can’t sleep from what I witnessed tonight, 800 miles away from Ferguson, MO. I can’t sleep because the words and perspectives that I read tonight made me physically shake with resentment. I can’t sleep because I needed to write, to process, to understand for myself.
I hope for understanding for all. I ask for opening our eyes, our minds and our hearts in an effort to understand the perspectives of those who are different than us. Understanding does not mean accepting those perspectives, but it means seeking out the meaning and feeling behind another person’s perspective to better inform and embrace your own. It is not until we can understand and respect one another that we can make positive improvements in our world.
I will continue to pray for the St. Louis community at large, for Officer Darren Wilson and his family, and especially for the family of Michael Brown. I hope that healing finds its way into this broken city quickly. Buildings can be rebuilt, goods can be replaced, but more than anything, I hope that peace and justice can be restored and that understanding can be achieved.