Ferguson. At the moment there is not a more polarizing topic. My newsfeed has been loaded, LOADED, with people sharing their opinion on the topic. Opinion might be too light a word actually, as it seems many people are convinced their perspective is THE truthful perspective. The other side is too emotional-racist-angry-oblivious-entitled-biased-politicallycorrect-opportunist-priviledged to have a valid perspective… but WE see the full truth of the matter and often feel the need to make others take off their faulty spectacles see the ‘truth’ through our obviously clear lens. We are sure we are 100% right and if you disagree that makes you 100% wrong.

But I have a suspicion: ALL our spectacles are a bit tinted. All of us see through a certain lens: a lens shaped by our ideology, our experiences, our emotions (yes, even you, conservatives- EMOTIONS 😀 ).

But let’s go back to the experiences part.
If you’ve seen white cops provoke and pick on black men, it is darn easy to believe Darren Wilson provoked Michael Brown.
If you’ve seen police corruption, it’s easy to believe that’s what happened in Ferguson.
And if you are black and have experienced racism from white people, you have no trouble believing racism is alive and well.
If you’ve seen cops be helpful and heroic it’s easy to assume Darren Wilson had the best of intentions and was just doing his job.
If you’ve seen the justice system work it’s easy to believe it normally works.
If you’ve seen people cry ‘racism’ like the little boy falsely called ‘wolf’, it’s easy to get skeptical of cries of racism in general.
And if you are white and have experienced racism from black people, you have no trouble believing racism is alive and well…. but from the OTHER side.

These are the two dominant paradigms and they like to shout at each other about how wrong the other is over a nice high wall called a computer screen, seemingly certain that they are 100% right and the other guy is 100% wrong. And it’s hard to pause long enough to consider the other point of view… because that would mean possibly conceding our rightness.

Anyways, back to the tinted spectacles. We all have them, and they affect the way we receive ‘the facts’. By the way, yes, the facts of the case matter. But they aren’t the only thing that matters, because the conversation that is happening, the rioting, the frustration, the anger, the indignation- it’s about the larger picture of race relations in America, not just about Ferguson.

So how on earth can we ever make progress on this race thing? How do we shed light and find more clarity on this issue?
More lenses, believe it or not. Did you know that when you shine 3 flashlights, one with red light, one with blue, and one with green, on a wall you will get clear white light? You probably either knew that or you are bored with my science analogy already. Stay with me.
indexSeriously though, do you see where I’m going? Your experience, your lens, is real. It is legit… and it’s part of the picture. And if I want, I can go through life insisting that my blue lens is legit and assuming your red lens isn’t. And we will get nowhere if we all do that.

But… what if we start sharing lens and combining our colors? What if I try on your blue lens and you try on her green one? What if we affirm the truth of other people’s experiences? What if we try using all the lenses? Something crazy will happen: we will start to see more light, more colors. It will mess us up a little, because everything won’t be ‘clearly’ blue anymore. It will both complicate and clarify… and will move us closer to the truth than a simple blue lens. Because the truth has more shades than blue.

To do this though requires something a bit out of the ordinary for many of us: genuine relationship with people from other experiences. It requires diversity of friendships. And this is so hard to do online. It is far better to do over a coffee or a beer. Face to face, where I can’t forget I am speaking to a real person, where my friend can tell me to shut up and try actually listening to them, where I can’t deny the very real experience of another person.

Loving Relationship. Very anti-climactic, I realize. It’s small, it’s slow, it’s not fancy… but for anyone familiar with Jesus’ teachings, we will realize that that is often how it works. Mundane, messy, scary love… it’s how He is fixing the world.