Can you believe it that a ‘White’ police officer is allowed to hug a ‘Black’ kid who is carrying a ‘free hugs’ sign? The story behind this viral picture is that a young kid was in tears because of his fear that violence seems to always arise between ‘White’ police officers and ‘Black’ men or teens. This police officer actually asks the young boy for permission to hug him. Little did this officer or the boy know that their pictures would be all over the Internet and the news that night?
If there is an image that could bring hope from the last week in Ferguson it’s this picture of this larger than life police officer giving a real hug to this young man! I know that most will forget too soon about the hundreds that protested in a peaceful fashion and what remains will be the stores that were looted or burned to the ground by a small group of real thugs. Now is time for there to be the opportunity to dialogue about what happened and why. It is so easy to always put the blame for situations like this on racism or what I have called the youth disconnect. Instead, what would happen if we were quicker to be like this young boy with a sign that wants to do something positive instead of screaming something out that insights a riot in an already torn down community!
The path to racial reconciliation begins when you consider how you make friends with someone of a different racial background. It’s all too easy to allow perceived differences to push you to being prejudiced against a stranger or make an assumption that someone is bad because they are wearing a hoodie or have tats. Just as the surprise when a ‘White’ guy or couple go into a neighborhood of color and enjoy eating at a local restaurant.
I will be the first to confess that as a community worker my initial assumption was that I’ve got my work cut out for me as I ‘fix’ these kids and teens that come out of generational poverty. Yet, the reality for many others and me is that we learn just as much about life from our neighborhood kids and teens as they do from us. Just as racism works both ways so does reconciliation! As I choose to listen and learn from my friends of color so they too see that our race can’t totally define who we are.
I too tire of the violence that too easily erupts over what seem to be senseless choices. How often have teens or young adults done ‘beer runs’ where the local merchant now has a gun and shoots the thief as they run outside the store. The complex issue of police actions in difficult circumstances will continue to be a problem where young and old push the limits of morality!
I would hope the memory of thanksgiving 2014 would be of a young boy with a free hugs’ sign! The work to restore a torn community and the families that have been devastated by the Michael Brown incident will continue. We pray for real reconciliation and forgiveness on all sides!