Before this week, I’d wept for injustice just once in my life.
A theology professor once urged me that as a Christian I needed to weep. “The injustices in this world are beyond our comprehension,” he said. “We live in trust that reconciliation will come, that on the cross it was begun. But for today, we must mourn with those who mourn. We must weep with those that suffer at the hands of injustice. We must experience empathy, because it is the only way we can remind ourselves that our responsibility as the Church is to the entire world.”
One calm evening during my semester in Tanzania, I woke from a dream soaked in tears. I’d dreamt about the Maasai women we’d met the week before: about the way they laughed when we asked if their husbands beat them, about the way their daughters would be circumcised and married to men more than twice their age. I dreamt that I told a friend about the things I had seen, and he said my feminist views were just getting old. In my dream I began to weep. I did not know how my crying could help, but I ached over their pain and the way it was ignored, so as I slept and once I awoke, I allowed my tears to flow.
In these last two weeks, as articles have spread across the Internet relaying varying perspectives on the events happening in my beloved St Louis, I’ve yet again found myself weeping at the face of injustice and mourning for those who cannot escape its grips.
A young man killed at the hands of police.
I weep with his family as they say goodbye.
People of color trying to say, “Our stories are valid! Our experience is real!”
I weep for those who have been ignored.
White men and women loudly complain, “Conversations about race are just getting old.”
I weep for those that are unaware.
Tear gas spread upon those who protest.
Voices stifled with the aim of a gun.
Facts twisted across the news.
A city’s pain used to bring gain and fame.
An "accident" that's waiting to happen again, in another city with another boy.
I wish that in my tears and through my words, I could ease the pain of the Browns.
I wish through tears and words, I could validate the experiences of those whose skin is different than my own.
I wish through tears and words, I could convince those whose skin looks like mine that the conversations are just beginning and it is our duty to engage.
Neither my words nor tears will change the events as they occur today, but my empathy is needed anyways. I turn to God in my tears, aching at the injustice of the world. Mourning with those that mourn. Praying for the day when reconciliation, which began on the cross, will be brought to fruition in this broken and aching world.
Then I turn to the family that mourns and cry, “Peace of Christ be always with you.”
I turn to those whose stories have been ignored and say, “I am here to listen.”
I turn to the people who complain and urge, “Open your eyes, your ears, your heart.”
I turn to the Church and I beg it to take part.
I beg you to weep at the face of injustice, I beg you to pray for the pain in this world. I beg you to hear the stories around you. I beg you to ask about the injustices you might not see. I beg you to seek reconciliation, and I beg you to trust that it’s already begun.
We live in a world so in need of healing, and we serve the only One who can heal. In bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to take part. But until we identify injustice, empathize with those it hurts, and work to change the systems which allow it to take place, we fail to accept the call of Christ on our lives.
My brothers and sisters who proclaim to serve the name of God, it is time for you to mourn. And once you’ve mourned, to listen, and to continue listening so that you can take part in enacting change in this world.
Ready to learn more, but not sure where to begin? Here are a few great starts:
PEW research data on racial division in reactions to Ferguson shooting: Center for People and the Press
Practical steps in racial reconciliation: Reconciliation Replay
On white privilege and what it isn’t: What My Bike Taught Me About White Privilege
On the system that accidentally kills: I'm Black, My Brother's White