I had an allotment post planned for today but although I believe with all my heart that growing food well is one of the most important, life-giving and even holy things we can do, now is not the time for me to write about gardening.
Of all the images that have filled our screens during this summer of horrors – and I do not remember a summer like this for horror – the ones that haunt me continually are from Ferguson, Missouri, where black teenager Michael Brown was gunned down by a policeman and his body left untended in the street for four hours.
Michael Brown was unarmed and he was shot at least six times, Eyewitnesses say he had his hands in the air. He was due to start college two days later.
I have a son just one year older than Michael Brown. I am writing this late at night and I know that soon he will be emerging onto the streets of Edinburgh, elated if his show at the Fringe has gone well, perhaps more subdued if it hasn’t.
Either way, he and his university friends may be a bit loud. There’s a lot of tension to release after a show. But they won’t attract attention from the police. (And even if they did, we in the UK do not, thank God, routinely give our police officers firearms.)
How is that one teenager can walk down the street freely with his friends, while another ends up dead in the road?
How is it that I can be rejoicing in my son’s achievements while a mother in Missouri has been robbed of the chance ever again to hug hers and tell him: ‘Well done: I’m so proud of you’?
I have read some powerful posts about Ferguson this week. Two that stood out were Black Bodies, White Souls by Austin Channing and The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail by Christena Cleveland (links at the bottom of this post).
Both are strongly worded, disturbing challenges to people like me, white people who claim to follow Jesus.
These women – and the pain and anger I have seen in the news from Ferguson – have made me face up to what I know in theory but mostly try not to accept as reality: there are structural injustices built into Western society (let’s not kid ourselves this is just about the US) that work in favour of people like me and my son.
I can’t write about the allotment today – not because the allotment is unimportant but because to ignore what I have seen these past days would be a form of walking by on the other side, pretending that the people who are bleeding at the edge of the road are somehow nothing to do with me.
In fact it would be worse than that because what I need to think about today is not just that the mother of a boy the same age as my son is grieving, but also my own complicity in the structures that are compounding that grief.
I need to think about how my life might shore up those injustices, and what I am going to do about it.
I highly recommend these posts: Black Bodies, White Souls by Austin Channing; The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail by Christena Cleveland.
There is a very full and thoroughly referenced timeline of the events in Ferguson here.