Last year I wrote a blog post asking privileged, white Christians like myself to resist shallow, self-serving prayers for peace in the wake of Ferguson. The problem isn’t that we long for peace; it’s what kind of peace we long for. Peace without justice. Peace without facing up to the malignant curse of racism. Peace without confessing how astonishingly short of justice we have fallen.
Five months on, little has changed. What was said about Ferguson can be said about Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Walter Scott. And now Freddie Gray.
This is what I wrote about Ferguson at the time, updated to reflect the current situation in Baltimore. What’s sad is how little I had to edit—an indication of how little has changed since Ferguson…how little we’ve learned.
Five months on, we’re still praying for peace. And we are still missing the point.
(Changes to the original post are indicated in red.)
I’m done praying for peace in
Ferguson Baltimore. I can’t bring myself to do it.
Not when the word “peace,” uttered by those of us who still cling to our unearned privilege, means peace for us and our kind.
Not when peace means black citizens are told they must respond to yet another mockery of justice in ways the powerful and privileged deem “socially acceptable,” yet it’s somehow OK for law enforcement to come at them with tear gas and tanks and military-grade assault weapons.
Not when peace means a return to the status quo, a resumption of normalcy—that is, privilege for us and discrimination for them.
Not if what peace really means is that I don’t have to face the implications of my privilege or the pervasive reality of systemic racism. Peace, as many have noted, requires so much more than the absence of conflict.
You want “peace” in
Ferguson Baltimore—by which you mean you don’t want to see any more cop cars burning on TV—but you don’t want to do anything to fix a system where people have no other way to make themselves heard?
Then what you want isn’t peace. What you want is for your privilege to remain untouched.
When the privileged pray for peace—if it’s not accompanied by a commitment to justice, a willingness to lay down our privilege—then what we’re really saying is we’re OK living in a world where white mass murderers are apprehended alive, yet a young black man—whose only crime that day was fleeing an unlawful arrest—has his spine almost completely severed in the back of a police van.
What we’re saying is we’re OK living in a world where black male teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white teenagers.
We’re saying it’s OK to have a 20-year life expectancy gap between neighborhoods just six miles apart.
We’re saying it’s OK for blacks in
Ferguson Baltimore to be routinely beaten by police—including a 15 year-old boy riding his bike and an 87 year-old grandmother.
This is not peace.
As one pastor observed, it’s like trying to have the benefits of resurrection without crucifixion. Peace without justice. Reconciliation without owning up to the sin of oppression. Harmony without relinquishing any of our privilege.
It cannot be done.
Peace does not come cheap. As you watch the scene unfold in
Ferguson Baltimore, as you mourn with those who mourn, do not pray for peace. Not until you’re ready to come to grips with what is necessary for peace.