Like much of America I watched last night as a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
I watched as many of my friends took to social media to vent their anger while others virtually shrugged their shoulders and simply said evidence doesn’t lie.
But America does lie.
America tells black people that our lives don’t matter, that our deaths don’t even deserve a trial. As Birmingham columnist John Archibald wrote:
When those families look at Ferguson justice, they see anything but due process. They wonder how a majority white grand jury could look at the same evidence they’ve seen on TV and not find enough evidence to at least send it to trial. After all, everybody knows a prosecutor can indict a tuna sandwich if he wanted to.
Last night a poem by Langston Hughes came to mind:
I am so tired of waiting,Aren’t you,For the world to become goodAnd beautiful and kind?
I am tired.
I’m tired of a rowdy few turning peaceful protests into riots. I’m tired of self-righteous racists turning the riots into an excuse to treat black people like animals.
I’m tired of politicians pulling black-on-black crime statistics out of their back pocket whenever asked to address police brutality and racial profiling.
As Kansas City Star columnist Jenee Osterheldt writes:
Yes, 93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks. The Justice Department says that nearly 84 percent of whites are killed by whites. That doesn’t change the fact that we have a race problem in America. It doesn’t erase the way white fear has infected communities, not just cops.
I’m tired of waiting for the white Christian church to stop being silent on issues of racial justice.
I’m tired of feeling like the lives of my black father, brother and husband only matter to me.
I’m tired of feeling helpless.
I woke up this morning asking God “What can I do? What can I do to help?” but I found no burning bush telling me the answer.
As a writer, all I can think of is the power of words.
I think about Proverbs 31:8 which urges the people of God to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
I think of my husband, a columnist for The Birmingham News. This is what he strives to do every day. This is what he was striving to do when last night he wrote that the outrage in Ferguson proves we can no longer ignore America’s race problems.
And he will continue to do this work even if it means waking up to an email inbox littered with racial slurs from angry, insensitive, closed-minded readers (who, ironically, say racism doesn’t exist).
I think about the power of words and how books changed my life, possibly saved it. Yes, I grew up in neighborhoods some folks are afraid to drive through even in the day time. But when I think of my old neighborhoods I don’t think of gang violence or any other type of crime. I think of the libraries that were my home away from home. I think of the books that dared me to dream and showed me the world was bigger than my block.
Today the schools in Ferguson are closed but the Ferguson Public Library is open. A Facebook friend urged folks to donate to the Ferguson Library. Library staff has consistently made themselves available to the community even when every other place closed its doors. The library has even created makeshift classrooms where teachers could continue their lessons.
“Suddenly the library is full and overfull. Everyone knows we’re here,” says Ferguson librarian Scott Bonner in an interview for the blog The Magpie Librarian.
And so I donated money to the Ferguson Public Library.
This small gesture will do nothing for the Brown family. It will not cool the literal and figurative fires that burn in Ferguson this morning. But I pray that a book will give at least one black boy or one black girl in Ferguson the hope they need to carry on another day and I pray the words they read will remind them that their lives do matter.