#stockleyverdict

Those of you who know me likely know that Saint Louis never has been and probably never will be “my city” or “my home”. I still vote in Washington state, half my wardrobe is adorned with graphics of the Seattle skyline, and my favorite time of year is whatever time I happen to be in the Pacific Northwest.

However, my loyalties and personal preferences don’t preclude me from caring about what happens in the city–and the country–in which I live. And just because social and institutional violence are more pronounced in some ways here compared to, say, on the coasts, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen there or affect people there too. Think, for example, of Trayvon Martin (Florida), Eric Garner (New York), Freddie Gray (Maryland), and Alfred Olango (California), and closer to my home, John T. Williams, Charleena Lyles, and Tommy Le.

I’m a 5’2″ (5’3″ if I wear a good pair of shoes) Asian female; although I weigh a surprising amount for my height, this is still pretty much the definition of nonthreatening.  And even from this place of privilege–I have financial resources, social capital, the benefit of being part of a “model” minority (#notyourmodelminority)–none of my interactions with the police in St. Louis have been positive.  Some have been downright frightening.  I occasionally get mistaken as being southeast Asian (probably my larger than average eyes and wider than average shoulders?) or even Native American (pretty sure these people simply have not been exposed to enough actual Native American people); unfortunately, I sometimes wonder how that would affect a police officer’s judgment of me were they to make that mistake.

I don’t lay claim to knowledge of absolute truth or justice.  What I do know is that when people are actively told that their lives DON’T matter, that’s a problem.  Although I happen to have opinions about the verdict in today’s case, that’s not ~really~ the point. This death was avoidable whether or not it was technically “murder”; denying that life was needlessly taken is to deny the value of the life in the first place.  And by extension–as one case rolls into the next and another face flashes on our TVs and through our newsfeeds–that just because certain peoples’ seem dissimilar to ours, they have less value than ours.

CS Lewis’ lesser-known works include a set of sonnets, one of which contains the lines:

You have what sorrow always longs to find,
Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;
Anger’s the anesthetic of the mind,
It does men good, it fumes away their grief.


And now a few random other thoughts:

One thing that I hear come up pretty often is, “Not all police officers are bad; don’t make blanket statements.  It’s just a few bad apples.”  This is not untrue.  But the bad ones make it a lot harder to trust the good ones.  Also, one rotten apple has the potential to ruin the entire bushel.  Perhaps most wisely, a friend who worked with police officers for their occupation once described the situation as follows: “Ten percent of officers always do the right thing, no matter what.  And ten percent of officers always do the wrong thing.  The other eighty percent, their behavior is determined by who they’re with.”  Here’s to human nature, folks.

On a vaguely related note, to the people posting with the hashtag “#ACAB” or otherwise that “all cops are bastards”: firstly, this is bad logic/doesn’t really help the dialogue, and secondly, this is/was originally a racist skinhead/white supremacist slogan (google it).  Although I recognize that reclaiming symbols of hate is a valid goal, I have a feeling that most people are using this out of ignorance rather than defiance.  So, be aware.

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South Grand

I’ve been reticent to post anything about the events in St. Louis/Ferguson/across the country because although I recognize that the internet is one of the most powerful tools, I also believe that that power comes with both heavy responsibility and, at times, heavy cost–factors for which I am frankly unequipped.  I dislike being the token St. Louisan in the room, expected to have a concrete opinion just because I live there ten months of the year.
But I thought I’d break my silence just a little bit to share these images. Back in December, I was running some errands on South Grand, where a number of protests (and unfortunately, riots) were staged. Many storefronts boarded up and hunkered down. In the aftermath of the chaos, the plywood screens were covered in images and words of hope, peace, and perhaps even the beginnings of reconciliation.
At the time I was reading a book by Aaron Kheriaty, who writes, “We are created in the image and likeness of God, and thus fundamentally good and endowed by God with an inherent dignity. At the same time, our nature is wounded, fallen through Original Sin, and thus inescapably flawed, inclined toward evil, and subject to illness and suffering… Indeed, we are able to find meaning, hope, and redemptive value even in the midst of suffering or illness”. So regardless of worldview/faith/belief system, I think there’s some wisdom–and hope–in that for everyone.
[For more pictures (before stores started taking the boards down), see this album from the South Grand neighborhood Facebook page]

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Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with thy God.

I’m not sure what to think about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson–not only because I’m ignorant of the legal system but also because I don’t have all the facts (and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone–not even Wilson himself–does or ever will).  But St. Louis has slowly become my second city over the past two and a half years, and so in that respect, I’m sort of obligated to have an opinion.  After all, what are the dinner guests going to ask me about at Thanksgiving after they’ve finished peppering me with questions regarding my classes?  Ferguson, of course.

Beyond having an opinion about the situation–beyond the rhetoric and the talking heads and the angry voices–I care about the situation because I am human.  Just like Michael Brown.  Like Darren Wilson.  Like each of the twelve jurors.  Like the protestors.  Like the innocent citizens whose businesses and livelihoods were damaged by rioters.  Yes, even like the looters.  And by caring, I choose to listen.  Not just to hear the shouting and breaking glass and cable news headlines, but to listen to people’s stories and hearts and lives–when I agree, when I disagree, and when I don’t know.

Most important, I believe we are called “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).  I don’t think anyone knows or every will know what true justice is in this situation, much less how to implement it.  But even when justice and mercy seem fundamentally opposed, as they do to so many right now, we must both search within ourselves and look to our God to bring justice and to show mercy to our neighbors.  Because when Jesus called us to be a light to the world, He didn’t mean for us to light Molotov cocktails (metaphorically or literally).

For some further insights from people more mature and better educated than myself, see this article on Christianity today and this sermon from a local St. Louis church (audio link near bottom of page).  Edit: NFL player Benjamin Watson posted this extended Facebook status, which is also worth reading.