By Megan R. Herrold
CHICAGO, IL (August 16, 2014) — On Thursday night I attended one of the National Moment of Silence events that were held in cities across the nation. The events were in response to the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday, but the silence was also for other victims of police brutality throughout the nation.
I went wondering if there was really a place there for me, a middle-class white woman. What were my true motives for attending? I went even though I doubted the effectiveness of my being there, that it would really accomplish or mean anything. I even questioned whether it was worth it to have an event like this at all.
Shouts of “Black lives matter” alternating with those of “All lives matter” echoed throughout Daley Plaza, but I couldn’t bring myself to join in. I can’t recall a time I’ve felt less like shouting, or cheering, or clapping, even though I agreed with what was being said.
But as is often the case when I do something I don’t want to do because I think I should, God opened my eyes and heart to show me some things. Sometimes because I have knowledge of a phenomenon, I think I understand it. But even though I’ve studied our nation’s history of racism and heard painful stories of racial profiling, there are aspects that I’m missing.
One organizer was especially emotional as she described her anger and her frustration. Her words, “I’m so mad,” were like a punch in the gut for me. Why wasn’t I mad? I had a very strong sense that what I’d been hearing the last few days is wrong, even dishonoring to God, but why wasn’t I more upset?
It was eye-opening in other ways, too. I’ve heard stories of the violence in Ferguson, caused by protestors and police, depending on which version of stories you read. And it saddened me that this was the response.
But I listened to the stories on Thursday, and heard the pain and even fear in people’s voices. I saw the signs declaring the names of people who have been killed in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Illinois, Alabama, and New York.
And I can understand why people would want to riot, why they would turn to violent expressions of anger. Instead of being surprised by stories of violent responses, I’m surprised that there haven’t been more.
I was already aware that the story of Michael Brown is not an anomaly. But I cannot know what it’s like to live with that awareness every day and know that it could have dangerous repercussions for me. Another organizer lamented that police harassment feels like a regular occurrence on the West Side of Chicago. “They tell you that you deserve it,” he said.
It made me wonder, once again, what it must be like to not be able to get away from this attitude, this ill treatment. It was an especially painful thought to consider while looking at–and silently praying for–the few children I could see in the crowd. Most were too young to realize what was going on, but I fear that they will find out when they are still too young to deal with it. Because really, no one, no matter what age he or she is, should be expected to deal with this.
But the biggest reason I’m glad I went is that I feel like I have an expanded understanding of the heart of God. What must it be like for Him to see His creation, His beloved children treated with so little regard? What does it say about our regard for Him that we allow such things to happen to those created in His image?
As my understanding of God’s love for His children grows, so does my love for His children, which further deepens my love for God.
At 6:20 p.m., I raised my arms and asked God to hear our silent plea, my silent cry of mourning and despair, which was silent in part because I simply had no words.
I went to the National Moment of Silence vigil in Chicago wondering if it was an empty gesture, wondering if I was merely doing the least I could do. It was not the least I could do; the least I could do was nothing. But it was not the most I could do. And for God’s kingdom to truly come and be present on earth, there is so much more to be done.