There is no telling what it felt like to be in his skin in that moment. Was he afraid? Indignant? Was this one of those times his mama had warned him about?
And while we don’t know all the details of this particular shooting, this death, we would be remiss not to look at the individual life and to the larger reality to which this speaks.
#Ferguson is a flashing arrow for all that splays out again and again as unarmed men of color are killed on the streets they call home, as our nation’s jails fill disproportionately with young black men.
How many stories have I heard of “driving while black” in Portland? Or “shopping while black” or “riding an elevator while black?” and the pain that fell afresh as sirens blared and people crossed and clutched and store clerks followed through aisles.
I will not forget the expression on the black woman we knew as Sister when she told us how deeply afraid she was to have black sons, of her prayers and her hopes and fight to keep them alive in this world that made clear how much it hated them.
Years ago, Michael commented with sadness that he knew he could blast down MLK Boulevard at 70 mph and that his skin would grant him immunity, while a young black man doing 42 would be pulled over in a heartbeat. Because the flashing police lights always illumined the faces of black men.
Our black pastor told of the gun held to his head during a routine traffic stop, his fight everyday not to hate and to seek reconciliation, to look to God in both his pain and search for justice.
White folks cannot know what it feels like to be black (or brown) in America, or what this means for each individual person in his or her own skin. But not knowing does not mean we do not try.