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I am not an African-American. But my skin is dark enough to understand how they feel in Ferguson. I do not agree with the response of a few looters but I understand the fire that rages in the heart of this community.

I am not a black man. But I am a father. And I cannot imagine a scenario where it would be ok for my 18-year-old son to be shot dead by a police officer and nothing to be done about it.

I am Latino, and an American. And I pray that our nation embraces this moment; which demands us to listen, to unite and to hope for the best.

I did not grow up in a poor neighbourhood but I know what it feels like to be followed in a fancy store by security. I also know the shame of always being selected for “random” searches at the airport. I understand the feelings of inferiority. The extra amount of fear when a cop car is behind me. Of having to prove myself because my name is not Bob or Ted or Dick. I know how hard it is to be seen through the lens of a stereotype, and no matter how hard you work to be seen as something else, you will always be a __________ (minority, thug, immigrant, threat, spic, nigger, wetback).

We have no clue what happened that terrible day when officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown. Only 2 men know what really happened. And one of them can’t speak up for himself. So a grieving community is speaking for him.

Judging their reaction as evil is the easiest thing to do. Putting yourself in their shoes is the right thing to do.

For most of us, Ferguson is about an incident. For our black brothers and sisters, it’s about a system. A system that makes them afraid of the authority that serves and protects. A system that incarcerates their youth at astonishing rates. And if the system represented by Officer Wilson “followed the law and followed his training” – then the system, the law and the training, should change. (For the sake of our children, it needs to change).

I feel incapable of doing anything to make this all better but I am choosing to let my anger turn into the pursuit of mercy. I’m choosing to let my grief turn into prayer for the Brown family and the Wilson family. And I’m choosing to be part of the change. Change that begins with forgiveness. Change that continues through radical acceptance. Change that morphs into healing.

Martin Luther King Jr. said,

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.

Let’s refuse to hate. Let’s intentionally start the conversation. Let’s ask our African-American friends and neighbours how they’re feeling, how they have felt, how they hope to feel. Let’s appreciate the sacrifice of our law enforcement agents. Let us honour the request of Michael’s parents and work for peace, for accountability, for true reform.

We can own this as followers of a better way. We don’t need to agree on the facts to come together. The only requirement is to accept each others’ humanity. To mourn with those who mourn. To see each life, each race and each community, as equal and important. Because in the heart of God there is a fire that burns for every tribe, every nation, every tongue, and for Ferguson.

It’s easy to tweet 140 characters. Easy to share opinions on Facebook. It’s harder to pray. Harder to love. Harder to understand.

Let’s do the hard things.

Peace

My good (white) friend and fellow pastor writes about Systemic Racism – GREAT READ!

Also, Highly Recommend: Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year