Voices: Loud Questions During a Moment of Silence

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.

Hundreds gathered at Chicago’s Daley Plaza on Aug. 14 for a rally against police brutality following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by Ashleigh Hill.

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.


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  • Thank you for submitting this article! I was truly saddened and disappointed this morning that my church did not make one mention of the wrongful death of Michael Brown or subsequent incidents in Ferguson, Missouri. I think one of the most important parts of being a Christian, middle-class white American is to be able to listen and truly hear the plight of those who were oppressed. We certainly may be privileged because of the demographic we were born into; that doesn’t excuse us from using the gifts and skills that God gave us. Your article is encouraging, and I truly hope all who read it, and all who are moved, will find ways to engage in meaningful conversation and actions towards gaining greater equality in civil rights issues.

  • Thanks, Megan, for your comment. I too was at the vigil on Thursday and had many of the same feelings that you describe. The question in my mind is how can I help? How can be a friend of those who feel oppressed, fear, and hopelessness? How can we be effective in our local community to remove these feelings and issues? The answers are not easy.

  • Thanks for sharing you experience! Being present in events like these is an act of compassion and commnity care! May a riot convert into justice and awareness and not just one more protest!We can not be passive in front of such injustice and authority corruption!

  • Beautifully expressed. I too feel a deep sadness at what has happened in Ferguson. And have been thinking what would God have me do?

  • Megan I don’t know if our paths have crossed because I don’t remember every woman I have met since serving in women ministries. However if you have been to Fall Retreat, Spring Celebration, North Park Graduation Annual Meetings etc past 7-8 years, chances are we have. Let me just say thank you for showing up. That is the very heart of God open to hear with your heart instead of your own reasoning. Yes there is still a great divide when it comes to race. The blessing is when it is revealed and you no longer bury your head in the sand. God bless you for a gesture that I feel is opening your heart to the things of God that truly matter.

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