Practicing with Children

We Still Need to Talk about Ferguson

by Amy Yoder McGloughlin

 

I know, I know.  The news cycle on this is over, and thoughts are elsewhere.  But, Ferguson’s story happens in some form every day in our country.  The sad truth is that too many folks consider brown bodies to be less important than others.

 

In the height of the Ferguson crisis in August, I attended a prayer service, remembering Mike Brown and all the other unnamed Mikes and Trayvons out there.  A friend publicly shared her experience of parenting her brown-skinned son, how she is constantly worried that he will be stopped by the police, or worse, shot and killed.  She shared the painful reality that so many families of color have to give “the talk” to their children, a talk about the ways they should present themselves in public, and how they should act if they are stopped by the police.

 

Those are conversations that I have never even dreamed of having with my blond-haired, blue-eyed, teenaged son.

 

My friend, whose conversations with her son is a fact of life, called on her white friends at that prayer service to make a pledge to do something about Ferguson.  What would I do with my white privilege to influence this world positively?

 

This challenge has been on my mind for weeks.  It’s why we still need to be talking about Ferguson and thinking about racism, and praying to see another way to live in this world.  The Mike Browns and Trayvon Martins show us the sad reality of this country–that racism is alive and well, and that have so much to teach our children.

 

My pledge to my friends who parent brown-skinned boys and girls is that I will teach my own children to recognize their privilege.  I’ve taught my teenaged son to stay with his brown-skinned friends if they are stopped by the police, and to never, ever leave them alone in times when they feel threatened.  I’ve been teaching him to notice the different ways that people are treated, to be mindful of his own behavior.  I’ve been talking to my daughter about the ways that different life experiences impact how people treat each other.

 

This is hard work, but I know it’s the work that Jesus engaged in, and the work to which we are called.  Just because Ferguson isn’t on the front page doesn’t mean we stop thinking about it, talking about it with our kids, and working to make our world better and safer for all God’s children.

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2 thoughts on “We Still Need to Talk about Ferguson

  1. It can be difficult for parents to sustain this concern once the media spotlight is off the issue—but as you rightly say, not all parents can afford to put their concern on pause. One thing that strikes me is that it’s really only because parents and siblings and friends raised the alarm that we heard about Martin or Brown in the first place: so while there are private actions we can take, there’s also a vital communal part to this story.

    In addition to the suggestions you’ve made regarding your children, I also wonder how you might strengthen your parenting network: if something were to happen to a child you know, which parents could you rely on to rally round you, contact media, support you at the police station or in a mediation, or join you at council meetings? Would that child’s family have to face the status quo alone? How can you help ensure that no family has to? If you did need people, who could you call and be sure they’d show up?

  2. Thanks for your comment Mackenzian. There’s always more to do, but I am encouraged by the way that parents and other kids show up to support each other–in a struggling school system like the one we’re in in Philadelphia, it’s the only way we can survive.

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