I have wanted to write about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri and the events that took place in the wake of the indictment verdict. But I have struggled with how to approach it.

I want to make it clear that I do not know everything about the Ferguson situation. I read news articles on BBC and the NY Times to get a general understanding of a) what happened and b) what are the major issues and themes currently being discussed and debated.

I am not an expert in politics, cultural anthropology, or any other field of study relevant to this situation. I think you could read every article in the world about what is going on in the United States as a result of the events in Ferguson, and you would still not be an “expert” on what happened.

Because the only two people who know definitively what happened are Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson and unfortunately, one of them is not alive to speak for himself.

We as the general public only know what happened based on first hand accounts from those involved and witnesses, who have their own set of biases, prejudices, and opinions. Everything the witnesses have said–in fact any opinion we express–is tinted by their individual’s world view.

Having said all of this, I have a few thoughts. The first being, there has been an enormous assumption about the grand jury. It’s important to remember that none of us was in that court room while the grand jury was in session. There were some major differences between this grand jury and others that have preceded it but those changes are not the responsibility of the public. That responsibility lies with judges and elected leaders. But regardless of how you feel about the proceedings and how they were established, you were not in that room listening to testimonies and evidence. The opinions we have each formed are based on second and third hand accounts and reports.

Secondly, I believe a lot of the violence that sprang up before and after the verdict was committed by people looking for a reason to instigate unrest. While many have criticized the use of force by the police and the National Guard, I believe it was an appropriate response given the level of violence that occurred in some cities.

I applaud those who chose to partake in peaceful protests. I think it is the appropriate way to express your first amendment rights.

Lastly, I believe the discussion of racism and racial equality in America needs to community based. You cannot discuss racial inequality outside the context of the culture and society that you live in. There is a lot of talk about equality and changes toward eradicating discrimination on the political and national level. However, the ideals of the policy makers often do not match up with the reality of people’s everyday lives. Inequality is an unfortunate status quo but one that we must all strive against.

Change happens when we are willing to sit down and hear the stories of those who are different from us because in doing so, we find out we have more in common with each other than we believed.

I hope and pray in the days and weeks to come, we have intelligent and gracious conversations about our differences. I hope we remember we are all just people trying our best to make the most of the lives we have.