Note: I started writing this post this morning thinking it would still be awhile before the Grand Jury announced its decision in the Darren Wilson case. We are hearing now that the decision will be announced this evening, so maybe the post will not serve the original purpose I intended. Still, I think it is important that we consider these things as we process the decision and any aftermath that may occur.
I am typically not prone to fear or worry. I must admit, however, recent events in my hometown in North County, St. Louis have made me wonder if I should take some extra precautions in case rioting breaks out when the Grand Jury announces its decision on whether or not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. I have wondered if I should buy a generator, stock up on food, or in other ways prepare for the worst. I haven’t done these things, but I’ve thought about it.
This is not the only way that uneasiness with current events has tempted me to change my normal behavior. I met my daughter for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel on New Halls Ferry Road Saturday morning. While driving to meet her, I wondered if it was smart to have chosen that location. When I saw the many surrounding businesses that were boarded up to protect themselves from potential looting, I was saddened. As I entered the restaurant, though, I was encouraged to see it was busy with a diverse crowd of people. I was glad we were dining there and giving support to a community that needs it.
It’s obviously not wrong to be on alert or take precautions during this time. I have no problem with those doing so. I do have a problem, however, with the way fear is being heightened by obsessive, single-focused news coverage and inappropriate use of social media. While a whole lot could be written on those issues (and believe me, I’m tempted), I’d like to instead offer some ways we can combat their effects on us.
Share stories of your own positive experiences with people of other cultures, positions, and races. Such stories help combat the stereotypes that drive our fears. Challenge the mindsets that divide us – “all cops act …,” “all blacks are …,” “all whites think …” – by sharing stories of times you have seen the opposite.
Share positive news stories (with proper fact-checking, of course). It is obvious to those of us who live closer to these events that the news tends to highlight the negative incidents which occur. Even worse than that, though, is that those are the news stories which get shared most on social media. There are good stories being reported (see just one example here and others in prior posts). Let us know when you see something encouraging or inspiring.
Share some shout-outs to people you know who are making a positive impact or modeling the love and change you want to see in the world. Let people know about people and organizations that are doing good work in the area. There are many. Just a few of my shout-outs would be to “The Ferguson Response” group that held a 21 day prayer vigil and services in Ferguson, and Patricia Bynes who is willing to call out those who are doing wrong on both sides of the issue.
Share art, or poetry, or quotes that fight fear and/or promote reconciliation. Try to stay positive on your own social media sites. Even when you desire to point out the wrong people are doing, it can either be done in a way that promotes peace and understanding … or in a way that continues to bring out fear and hatred.
And finally, if you really want to combat fear:
Do NOT share without fact-checking. I am appalled at the number of people I see sharing things from fake news sources or from hearsay before verifying (see this article for examples). This helps no one.
Please feel free to share your positive stories and links here. I particularly would like to hear stories that help dispel stereotypes and calm fears.