Monday, November 24, 2014

Dear Mrs. Till-Mobley

Dear Mamie Till- Mobley-

First, I apologize for using your first name. You don't know me and it's not right for me to presume.

I cannot stop thinking of you tonight. We have just heard, late at night, that Office Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, MO police will not be charged with any crimes in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Wilson is white. Brown was black.

You wouldn't have been surprised by the rhetoric that has poured forth since Brown's murder on August 9th. We've heard about his misdeeds, his alleged activities, his tendencies, his size, his demeanor, his habits, and all other manner of detail meant to reveal that his life was just another brown life, only significant by what it proved in death- that it didn't count for much to the whites around him.

Mrs. Till-Mobley, tonight, people are arguing that a failure to indict by a grand jury means that there wasn't enough evidence to prove a crime, that the officer didn't do anything wrong, that justice has been met. The reason I am writing to you is because I am wondering, truly wondering, if people told you that justice had occurred with the trial of your son, Emmett's, murderers.

They had lawyers. They had a jury of their peers. They were allowed the presumption of innocence. You know better than anyone that adherence to the letter of the law does not equal justice.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry we didn't learn from Emmett's death. Not only was he murdered, but it seems that he was murdered in vain. We should have looked at his bloated and mutilated body, the body you had the courage to demand we see, and vowed, "Never again."

We looked away.

Worse we pretended we did not see.

The fruits of the spirit of America are not just strange; they are rotten. Freedom comes at the cost of those who fight for it, but where we don't have to see it, hear it, or be affected by it. Privilege comes through the oppression of others- as though modern living is a zero sum game, disregarding the waste of our lifestyles. Power comes through money spent, not through respect earned and trust granted.

We failed Emmett. We failed Michael. We failed you.

All the biblical metaphors I could mention now, which would be familiar to you, feel like dust in my mouth. We know what those words are, from prophets and from Christ himself. They are cross-stitched and framed on our walls, tattooed on our biceps, slapped across our bumpers, and spaced carefully on our church signs. To God, however, they are as grievous as your son's body, as His son's body. They are the blatant markers of our audacity to pronounce God's words, but to fail to live by them.

Mrs. Till-Mobley, Emmett is not forgotten. I want to tell you that he did not die in vain, just as I'd like to say to Mrs. Brown. But I can't say that today.

You are our cloud of witnesses, you and Emmett and others. Your cry goes up, "How long?"

I don't know.

I don't know.

But I won't give up. And that's all I can promise.


The Reverend Julia Seymour

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