Where’s the outrage?

Yesterday, I took that bike ride with a woman in the congregation. It was beautiful day and we road 16 miles. It felt good. Today I talked with a colleague about the images of the shooting still in my head. The sense of anger and frustration at not being able to stop the violence. The very particular pain at not knowing what happened to this specific young man. We talked about the fact that so many in our society just shrug and seem to accept that young black men kill each other. It is as if it is somehow okay. As if this young man — any young man or woman — is dispensable. Where is the outrage? I know there is outrage in the Black community and in the Black Church. Where is the outrage in the white community, and every other community?

If a white kid had been shot in that spot two days ago, wouldn’t the neighborhood be shocked, outraged, looking for answers? I realize it is not about me or how I feel; it’s about the young man in the white t-shirt laying in the street. But I believe my inability to get past seeing him is precisely because I saw him. I don’t want it to be okay. I don’t want it to be normal. I don’t want it to be just “what they do” (as someone said to me). That is not acceptable. That acceptance is what grows out of racism.

I think of youth who have been active in the church — Some are still here or perhaps in another place, but doing well — in school, or working, or raising their own families. There are others who are or have been in jail and in prison. Two currently. Both young black men with families who love them. I remember specifically when one of these boys was young. It was during a “Children’s Moment” in worship when we asked what they children wanted to do when they grew up. This young boy said that he wouldn’t grow up. He already knew older friends and family members who had been shot. He accepted what others accepted for his life. I ached and raged inside then. We tried for years to instill an expectation of life and purpose and future. Today, I am painfully aware of our failure.

We have work — ministry — to do.

This morning when we were on the street for “Happy Friday”, we were meeting people and serving coffee and cocoa as usual. It was not “as usual” however; I kept looking at the spot when the young man fell and lay. It wasn’t the same. It could not be the same.

This afternoon I planted flowers. The Director of our Isaiah 58 Hunger Program came outside and with some amount joy described how much those we serve in the food pantry and clothing room are enjoying resting on the new benches in the garden before they walk or catch a bus with the bags they are carrying. Today was fresh produce day; I found a banana peel by one of the benches. I had to smile; it was a good thing. A little thing, but I’ll take it. A good thing.

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4 thoughts on “Where’s the outrage?

  1. Jacque, dear…

    I just found your name through RevGals. I was reading your words and just knew it had to be you. Then I found googled you, found the church website. And then found your blog.

    I don’t think I’ve seen you since Portland GA, maybe? A long time…

    It is so good to “hear” your voice again.

    Much love,
    April McClure

  2. Jacque, you cared, you grieved, you prayed for him. That is a gift. The gardens beside the church do offer respite for people who have come to our building, perhaps to people who once had a garden of their own before the economy or other circumstances put them where they are today. And yet, as you said this morning in your sermon, we all have much more work to do. Maybe we should invite that coalition of Black Men who held a meeting in another part of our city last week about Stopping the Violence to organize a similar group in our neighborhood, offer them our space to meet and support them as we can. It’s just a thought.

    It’s a coincidence but on Friday night, driving home from a friend’s house, we were stopped at a stoplight not far from our home and I think I saw a drug transaction go down right in front of us. A young man got out of a parked car, walked across the street and “shook hands” with someone in the car. The light turned green; the car sped away and the young man walked back to his vehicle in the dark. And he was wearing a white T-shirt, too. I think we all need to stop being so complacent and start figuring out what we need to do to be aware of what’s going on and to ask what we can do to help. I’m sorry we weren’t there on Wednesday night to offer you more support. Our excuse was that we were too tired from 4 hours of wrestling with the newsletter and the traffic. Obviously a case of misplaced priorities, or the frailty of age, or lack of will or all of the above.

    Take care of yourself, sister and pastor. Your life counts, too.

  3. The little things do add up….and while it may seem insignificant the little things, a banana and a bench, made a difference to that person in that moment…not that that should make us complacent. there is work to be done, ministry indeed…mompriest

  4. Wow Jacque. I just posted on a similar topic after seeing the ministry of a parish in the middle of a neighborhood being overwhelmed by violence and drugs in Flint Michigan.

    The post is here:
    http://bythesea-blog.blogspot.com/2008/05/newsletters-soup-kitchen-slicing.html

    As for keeping replaying the scene, I think that’s normal. There was a shooting in my workplace in 1997. If you’re experiencing any post-traumatic stress it may affect you much like all the ways grief can.

    Your story and your words “there’s still work, ministry to do” echo and reinforce what I was feeling today as I learned about the soup kitchen and what is happening in the neighborhood it’s in. It was a rough neighborhood before, but things got much worse when the auto industry pulled out and seriously hurt the economy.

    There are at least 2 problems I reflected on today (and probably many others) that come into play:

    1. Due to various life circumstances persons have become hooked on a drug (alcohol, drugs, or tobacco… the priest said to day yes they will kill you over a cigarette), and they will do just about anything to feed that habit.

    2. Unfortunately selling drugs is lucrative, and people can make more at it than at some low-paying job. When the economy takes a hit and many jobs dry up… how can folks support themselves?

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