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Stopping to Listen

by Christine Dragonette on August 17, 2014

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.

4 thoughts on “Stopping to Listen

  1. Who Are Credible Witnesses?
    The Constitution of my congregation, Adorers of the Blood of Christ has a phrase that has always been a challenge and inspiration for me. Under the section on “Simplicity and Interdependence” we are urged to “give credible witness.” When I ponder the current situation in Ferguson I wonder where to look for credible witnesses. The issues on our border with people fleeing injustice and grinding poverty lived in fear for their lives makes me question where I’ll find credible witnesses. Our metropolitan area’s racial divide and unequal distribution of goods cry for credible witnesses.
    Who are the credible witnesses to the Gospel message and where do I find them? The good people of Ferguson who constantly plead for peace and non-violence also call to the rest of us to lives of justice and to examine the deep-seated inequality in our metropolitan area. How am I, how are we, implicated in this? The effects of social sin rampage on the streets of Ferguson. We’re all guilty to some extent and to a larger extent we can work to change our hearts and the system that fuel disrespect, injustice and inequality.

  2. I am not gifted at writing or speaking but this is how I feel about the unrest in our community at large. I, as one individual, cannot change what’s happening in Ferguson or north city or the next place a murder happens, but I am responsible for treating the people I meet with respect. I often hear the folks I encounter around St. Vincent’s say that they like that they are showed respect when they come around. So if each person could be responsible for how they treat ANYONE they encounter would be a good start AND continue to pray for peace for all who are suffering during these horrific days & nights.

  3. Karen, St. Vincent’s is full of credible witnesses who do indeed listen. I look around the parish to find my credible witnesses.

  4. Thank you, Karen and Sr. Regina, for your comments.
    Sr. Regina, you bring up such an important point about recognizing our own role in the systemic inequalities that exist in our community and beyond. Your comment on credible witnesses makes we think about how necessary it is to get witnesses from all perspectives. I know I have been guilty in some circumstances of looking for information that will reinforce my beliefs, but that does not create progress.
    Karen, it seems as though one of the best ways we can respond to unrest is to foster peace in our daily activities. There may not be a way for each of us to directly affect change in Ferguson, but we can engage in conversations and actions that promote justice and peace.

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