This weekend I'm off to Ferguson again to help build bridges in a community where the history between police and African American citizens are broken. The irony is that similar bridges are out in my own backyard. Over the last week there have been boiling over riots here in Baltimore.
What is the difference between Baltimore and Ferguson? The demographics of color and ethnicity are different. In Baltimore you have a city leadership and police force that is basically reflective of the community. Cultural diversity isn't the problem, but what is a problem is a culture of corruption, class disparity along economic lines, and bad community policing relations.
The similarities between this "tale of two cities" are the psychographics. This means that the mentality of the citizens in the community between Ferguson and Baltimore match. A sense of disenfranchisement and feeling persistently and consistently ignored, muted, and forgotten is the cultural norm. Unless a citizen becomes a suspect, they are largely disregarded.
Another similarity between the two cities is that frustration leads to demonstration, the only language afforded to the poor. Protesting peacefully is often the beginning intent of such demonstrations only to escalate from silence to violence; from quiet to riot.
In addition, the view from outsiders is similar. When the media is the source of our news our perspectives are often shaped by cultural and racial biases that persist. Often it is the view of many middle and upperclass whites, well-to-do blacks, and others that "Those people" (the thugs, criminals, blacks or whatever the name of the day is) are burning up their own city and hurting themselves."
While it is true that the people in these communities are damaging the very community they hold dear, all people are generally prone to sabotaging all they care about when they are frustrated, hopeless, and angry; not just blacks in the city. This is not an excuse or a license, simply an understanding.
We all know what it's like to be so frustrated that we are tempted to damage something or someone we hold dear. That could be punching a wall, throwing a dish or cell phone, or sadly enough, assaulting a loved one.
None of these responses are justified or right. Hence, we need a remedy. This is where healing is necessary so that we can heed the Scriptures that say, "Be angry and sin not."
As it relates to building bridges of reconciliation we have made measurable progress every decade, but setbacks that smack of familiar injustice continue to persist. Deep in my heart, however, I still believe that the answer to our social ills in Baltimore, Ferguson and in our nation is one that is counterintuitive. My strongest conviction is that the answer to racial and cultural healing in our nation is forgiveness.
Justice is important and we must always fight for it and stand up for it, but justice is just not enough. We need "Just As"!
"Just As" we have been forgiven by God, we must forgive others. Citizens must forgive police. Blacks in America must forgive whites. The offended and oppressed must forgive the perpetrator and oppressor. Not to forgive is to not be free. Not to forgive is to not be healed. Not to forgive is to respond in like manner to the next tragedy repeating the same historical cycle of injustice followed by protests.
We must forgive "just as" we have been forgiven. We must forgive as Jesus forgave the greatest injustice of his crucifiers. Yet, it is through the demonstration of forgiveness that life, freedom, resurrection, and power comes.
How about a forgiveness demonstration? Who's in?