As a follow-up to Mark’s insightful post on practical ways we can respond to events in Ferguson, I would like to weigh in on the conversation, and hope that others will join me in commenting below. The events of this past week are important and worthy of as much conversation as possible if we hope to work toward justice and peace in our community.
As an outsider to the Ferguson community, I have struggled with how to respond to Mike Brown’s death. Attending the peace demonstration downtown on Thursday was one way I felt able to show my support for justice and peace. Many individuals attended the demonstration to honor Mike’s life and to promote peace, but also to voice experiences of oppression and injustice. At one point, Mike Brown’s mother acknowledged the crowd by simply raising one hand in the air, unable to speak through tears.
I realized at the rally that the most important action I can take right now is to listen and pay attention to what those in Ferguson are saying, both in words and actions. While details of specific incidents may not always be clear, oppression and racism do exist, and when people tell us about their experiences with oppression, we need to listen.
Catholic social teaching dictates that we honor a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, but economic, social, and racial barriers often create the opposite effect. We are called to enter into relationship with those experiencing poverty or oppression in order to better understand how to actively work toward a more just society. Casting judgment aside and simply listening is a necessary first step.