A Reflection on the LA Riots and Ferguson: Whites and Blacks

I was 17 going on 18 living in Lakewood, CA (right next to Long Beach, CA), and the four LAPD police officers indicted in the beating lariotsof Rodney King were acquitted of all charges in the Spring (April to be exact) of 1992. I was a senior in high school attending Brethren Christian High School in Cypress, CA (where they had just moved from their previous campus site in Paramount, CA) among a very diverse student body; a good mix of black and white kids (among other races). Beyond this, my dad was pastoring a church in North Long Beach, CA which shares a border with Compton, CA; we lived right in the middle of everything!

When the riots broke out in South Central Los Angeles (about 20 miles or so from where we lived), nobody, at that point, really knew what those riots would turn into. As that day bore on into the next morning I can remember looking over towards South Central, and even down the street from our house, and seeing black plumes of smoke rising over the skyscape of Los Angeles, with ashes and burning embers raining down on us as if it were snowing fire. Looting became a new part of our urban lexicon, and the National Guard and street barricades became common place for those long days and nights. It looked as if we were in a war zone, with the military hummers cruising the streets with fully outfitted and armed military personnel in tow; it was a sight to behold, and a moment to experience!

Living through that time was very impacting upon the development of my own identity, and continues to be a part of who I am; a white boy currently living in the predominately white Pacific Northwest. It is interesting to me to hear white people talk about racism, in particular towards black people. It sounds strange to me; not because there isn’t systemtic racism abounding across our land, but because it all sounds so academic, for the most part. With the recent advent of Ferguson, and the acquittal of Police Officer, Darren Wilson, and the riots happening there, there is a whole new, but old narrative being retold; mostly by white male academics. Is there white racism? Yes. Just because you are white, does this automatically mean that you harbor racist attitudes towards black people; like in a naturalistically determined way? No! (of course it is possible to live in the hoods as a White guy or gal, or as a Black guy or gal, and still be very racist — I get that!)

I realize the above is kind of fragmented, interwoven with my own personal history and unfinished thoughts about how much of this idea of White racism toward Blacks has developed and been developing. But I think I just wanted to highlight the reality that not all White people find out about the races, particularly the Black race by reading books about it; some White people have grown up interacting and being formed by engagement with this part of our society, and the idea of race relations has a different meaning for these types of White and Black folks who actually share space and live together among the hoods of America. With that said I want to close with the following Gospel-reality:

At the end of the day, the blood of Jesus has brought all nations, tribes, and tongues together at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is only as we live from and out of this eschatological humanity of Christ that breaks in upon our lives ecstatically by the Holy Spirit as the ground of our lives as humans that humanity will be able to live in the liberty that we have been given as one new ‘man’ in Jesus Christ.

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