Tuesday, August 19, 2014

'I shouldn't know your name'

The unrest in Ferguson, Mo., continued last night, with two men shot and 31 people arrested in the ninth day of demonstrations following the death of Michael Brown. Kate Murphy, pastor at Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, offers a different, compelling perspective on the victim. It's worth a read. 

An Elegy for Michael Brown

I shouldn’t know your name.
And now there are so many people telling me who you were
Voices sorrynotsorry to show me
you’d robbed a convenience store
Stolen a box of cigars (they were very expensive cigars)
And other voices, shaking with rage
Telling me that you were a good kid
A gentle giant
Headed off for college
but all I need to know
is that I shouldn’t know your name
whether you were a great saint
or deeply troubled
or like every teenager
a maddening glorious mixture of the two
I still
shouldn’t know your name

here’s the first thing I do know
if your mother had tried to walk into an abortion clinic
18 years and some months ago
She would have been surrounded by Christians
White, middle class Christians
Some weeping with compassion for your life cut short
Some shaking with rage, calling her a murderer
All begging her to give you a chance at life
And the first thing I want to know is
Where is the weeping now?
Where is the rage now?
Where are the prophets crying out against the injustice
Of the one who played God & chose to end your life?

15 years ago I sat in a courtroom
Bearing witness to the sacred worth
of another teenage boy
Who was a brilliant beloved battlefield
And as we waited for his case to be called
We watched white boy after white boy
Walk up from the gallery
In suit and tie
And listen to the charges read against them
Assault and battery, possession with intent to distribute, driving while intoxicated
And nod respectfully as their lawyers got them probation
And sent them back to class
At their expensive private university just up the street

And black man after brown man entered the same courtroom
From the rear
In shackles and orange suit
And stood before the same judge
And heard the charges read against them
Possession, assault, possession
And one man—I kid you not, was there because he stole pampers, formula & baby food
And they were all were sent back to jail
To wait their trial
That day, every white boy (raping, dealing drugs, driving drunk)
That day, every black and brown boy (fighting, taking drugs, stealing diapers)
Returned from whence he came
And every time I tell that story it makes everyone mad
for different reasons
And I can’t get it out of my head this week
And you know why

Because I tell my daughters
If they get in trouble
To look for a police officer to help them
And your mother must have told you something so very different
And still, there you were, unarmed
Hands outstretched
Head bowed
Blown apart in the street
By the one who swore to protect you
Whether you were a good kid
Whether you were a thief
It doesn’t make your death more or less tragic
Your life was sacred
We all betrayed you
Like another young man
Whose body was broken for our sins

I wish I’d known you.
I wish I didn’t know your name.


Renee Aldrich said...

Are you seriously comparing Jesus Christ to a 18 year old criminal? And you not only call yourself a Christian, but a Pastor to boot? You have lost your damn mind!

Anonymous said...

To each his own.

Unknown said...

Brown “bum-rushed” Wilson moments after pushing him into his squad car, punching him in the face and trying to grab the cop’s gun.

Unknown said...

Your assertions about this officer are absurd and ruin an otherwise noteworthy position on the variable perspective of different demographics on the justice system in America. I'm so sorry you ignored the fact that our police officers are there to protect us, and they carry the extremely heavy burden of having to use force at times. It is tragic all the way around, but to suggest it is any less tragic for the officer or the business owners or those of us who live near Ferguson in a state of disgust is ridiculous - you are a lunatic. Thank you for providing me insight not to attend your sermons and not worship with you. Stick to what you know honey, use the good book and talk about things from 2000 years ago and leave the present to those of us with a more grounded and informed understanding of the world around us.

slimgoody69 said...


Vicki said...

That was beautiful. Thank you.

Go Joe said...

First Kate Murphy you lack general understanding of the Word of God. You are a pastor at Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, first thing you need to do is RESIGN as a Pastor. Women aren't supposed to Rule over Men in a Church...of course you don't like that so you went ahead and did it anyway. You are drunk with fleshly things, as you stagger through your life yelling and spouting knowledge of the fleshly drunkard. Maybe you missed "Officer Darren Wilson Suffered “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket” During Mike Brown Attack"
or maybe you missed "Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop's version of events in shooting"

David from Stallings said...

There is much to learn from the problems in Ferguson. How a community with 70% African American can fail to have representation on their school board, city council and mayors office, leads to a police department where only 3 officers of color serve out of 53. Who's fault is that?

You should also be careful in believing the strong armed robber was surrendering. Maybe he was, but until we hear both sides the out stretched arms account is only one side. I'm not defending the cop... Maybe he's guilty as sin, but I'd like to hear his side of events too before I convict him.

Aubrey Moore said...

I have to ask Renee Aldrich and others who have posted here, what does it feel like when you lose your soul? Did you sell it for worldly gain or did you never know what it was that was given to you?

This was a great elegy and to show your death of soul in your responses proves that humanity has a long way to go to understand what has been given to him.

Will Cate said...

While I'm sorry that the young man died (and that's what he was, BTW, a "young man"), Murphy's elegy assumes circumstances which most of the eye-witnesses do not corroborate. Most of them support the cop's story, as will be borne out in the forthcoming grand jury hearing.

Richard Smith said...

Well written, but we do not know all the facts here. Should Michael Brown of been killed? My opinion is no. But to think the officer did it out of malice or even prejudice may not be correct. Officers are humans, who are subject to fear, adrenalin, mistake, and the heat of the situation. None of us know what that's like every single day. I mourn for the family of Michael Brown. I cannot judge his character because I didn't know him. I mourn for the officer and his family, because it seems very clear he made a mistake. I mourn for the community that is self destructing, and proving themselves to be exactly what the officer feared. It's a vicious circle.

jcmack said...

I hate to say this Kate, you take all of the blame and place it on one side. Ever hear the saying, "Don't start none, there won't be none"? All Brown had to do is listen to the policeman. If Brown had a problem with it, he could have filed a complaint. It's Brown's arrogance that led to his death. It's called personal responsibility. Which some how people have forgot about.

Rodney Jackson said...

can someone please provide me with a link that says "most witnesses" support the cops story?
last i read. and you all can go to CNN for this is that the autopsy supports the other young man that was with Mike Brown and most of the people who witnessed him surrendering with his hands up and still being shot. Mike brown was 6'4 now you tell me if he's standing up how can he be shot in the top of the skull?
2nd. for everyone talking about robbery. the store owners own attorney said that the store owner never seen Mike Brown and that it was him in the tape.

Renee Aldrich said...

Aubrey Moore, my soul and others who do not share the same belief of this so-called minister are what YOU deem is the death of humanity?
Let us read again from the "good" pastor.... "Hands outstretched Head bowed...
Your life was sacred
We all betrayed you
Like another young man
Whose body was broken for our sins"
You're concerned with my soul and you've got this "woman" leading a church who's comparing a mere mortal thief to Jesus Christ?
Aubrey there's far more wrong with humanity and soulessness then my opinion of this woman... And yes, I use that word loosely.

Will Cate said...

Rodney Jackson --

Christine Beyers, reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Twitter:

"Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop's version of events in shooting"

Bussta Brown said...

The Pastor attempted to address the reality of having far too many trigger-happy officers of the law when dealing with non-white individuals as opposed to dealing with white individuals.

She also attempted to address those who adamantly oppose abortions yet somehow turn a blind eye to providing support for the non-aborted babies that actually make it through.

She is right on both accounts. It's too deep of a conversation so she should have and probably expected the backlash from the enablers.

Outraged said...

"the one who played God"? Outrageously irresponsible comment to make given no more than we really know about the circumstances and what the officer might be faced with. Also outrageous considering the trauma other officers have had to face in deadly force confrontations while defending others.

Outraged said...

"the one who played God"? Outrageously irresponsible comment to make given no more than we really know about the circumstances and what the officer might be faced with. Also outrageous considering the trauma other officers have had to face in deadly force confrontations while defending others.

Kath said...

I see the correlation between Jesus, who though innocent was treated and punished as a criminal, and this teenager.

greyborzoi said...

I just thank God that it's the thug who died and not the cop.

Larry said...

She is over a group which advertises on it website: The Grove: An age & culture diverse faith community, blending tradition & modern with a dash of the unexpected.

I wonder what the unexpected might be, perhaps an ending that is very unexpected?

kwnatural said...

Knowledge is power. Educate yourselves on race relations in America before you speak.

LGFitz said...

A thought provoking piece - and a tragic event all the way around. I don't know all of the facts, but I choose love and kindness over hate and vitriol.

Mark Diehl said...

A beautiful piece. It is more poetry than prose, more textural than textual, more evocative than fact-laden. I'm sorry it is generating in the comments such negativity. Poetry never goes well with literalists of any variety.

kpp said...

God bless you, pastor Kate!

Devil Dog 1775 said...


My sides are SCREAMIN!!! Stop, Please!

But seriously,

Would we be lamenting the passing of this police officer with a battered face and bullet holes from his head to his toes?

Would we be crying a river for the family of this public servant if this thug, acting thugidly was able to wrest the weapon from this officer of the LAW?

Would we be protesting the institution that is tasked with keeping our streets safe for our children, shouting racial obscenities and looting and burning our neighbors properties, while there was one of America's finest laying in the street, shot in the head protecting your right to speak out?

NO! You would be silent....

Renee Aldrich was right. You have lost your damn mind!

Schreven Valle said...

Dear Reverend, you are living in a make believe world. This makes you ineffective because, you see, we live in the real world. We, must fight back when we are being beaten to death or evil will reign.

lee said...

Pastor: there are consequences to sin. you cannot justify based on skin color; whether a child (sinner) wears a suit/tie in court or orange jumpsuit. God does not base his judgement on physical characteristics.
Far too much of our society is based on what one looks like or owns. this cannot be more wrong.
I would hope you understand this, and correct your teachings...

Mark Ranier said...

If the policeman had been black, would this opinion piece ever have been written by her? Hint: no.