Arthur Miller's play, All My Sons, has been on my mind this week.
Briefly, the play concerns the revelation that the patriarch of the family, Joe, supplied defective airplane parts to the military during Worls War II. At the confession, he tells his one surviving son that he did it for the family, particularly his sons. With the further revelation that his other, MIA son had sent a suicide letter to his fiance, suicide due to shame over his father's actions, and the men who had died because of the defective parts, Joe says, "I guess to him, they were all my sons."
That's a great human fault. We think in terms of my people and those people. We don't care so much about someone's destruction because they don't belong to us.
As I learned of the unfolding horror that is the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, I had the thought, this is going to keep happening until we white people can see every child as our child.
Mind you, I know plenty of white people who are horrified by this killing. I know white people who love and cherish children of darker skin. Please don't start a hashtag for NotAllWhitePeople.
But let's also be real. Racism is alive and well and however directly or indirectly you want to connect the dots, there is institutional racism on display in the story of Ferguson.
And I don't think enough white people see this killing as affecting them. It's not their son. In fact, it probably, literally, couldn't be. I know that what happened to Michael Brown doesn't happen to white, college bound young men or if it does, it is a great anomaly.
I also am aware of the pitfalls of being a white, child-free man claiming a young man of color is my son. There's all kinds of ways to read that as privileged paternalism.
But still, I say it, because until we all feel the loss of any child as though it were the loss of our own, we're not going to find the outrage to change a system that targets some of our children in America.
I will also say our salvation depends upon it. Not some future, heaven bound salvation, I mean our salvation as a nation even as a planet, right here, right now, in the flesh. Until we hear these stories and feel the grief as if losing our own, we're damned to burn in a hell of our own design.