Grappling with privilege and the mess made by people who look like me.
JULY 7, 2016. EVENING.
I’m not sure what to make of today. The country is again drawing lines in the sand because two more black men were gunned down this week for no reason. Fathers. Involved in their kids’ lives. Not drug dealers or thugs or rapists. Men. Who loved and cared for their loved ones, complied to the cops’ requests, and lost their lives anyway.
It was the fourth of July on Monday. We, as a nation, celebrated our freedom. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness — rights that no one is to take away from us, unless we infringe on one of someone else’s — we celebrated living in a country that honors all three for all of its people.
But does it really? Because for my African-American brothers and sisters, for my non-white immigrant or first-, second-, third-generation American siblings, for my Native American brothers and sisters, that promise has fallen — repeatedly, often, and too recently — short of reality.
I log into Facebook and, while my white friends whine about work or count down to the weekend of “adventure” or post selfies with their “fur babies”, my black and brown friends share things like:
A TEDtalk of an African-American poet reflecting on how he was raised in a world where authority would hold him to an especially lofty standard:
A father sharing a poem-in-progress with his young son:
— v a n e s s a (@dzyadzorm) July 7, 2016
A friend of mine who has a one-year-old posted this:
My breath caught in my chest when I saw that post. I don’t want this horror story to last another twelve years. Or ten. Or five. Or one. I want it to end now.
I am white. Which means I have privilege. It also means I don’t know what it’s like to be black, brown, or any other color. I don’t know what it’s like to be in someone else’s skin, and the only way to get an idea is to go out of my way and ask. Even without knowing, though, there’s no denying that my experience of America — especially with gun-bearing police officers who look like me — is drastically different from the African-American male.
Not all cops are racist. Not all cops are ruled by fear. Not all cops are white. But that’s not the point. The point is:
There is a disparity between what we say America is and what she lives out on a daily basis. And it is not the downtrodden’s job to lift themselves out of the ashes. It’s the responsibility of the privileged to give them a hand, foot, and leg up — to even lift them on our shoulders if we’re able. Not for token diversity, not to fulfill some “white savior” fantasies, but out of a genuine, heartfelt love and, thus, sense of duty for our neighbors.
Sunday, I had to sing “America the Beautiful” in church, because my church is one of those that still does that. It felt weird, because over the past several years, this nation has only grown uglier in my eyes. I know I’m blessed to have been born here and I’m proud of a lot of our heritage, but I don’t think the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth. And in no way do I see its past as something to bring back.
Four days later, at our Thursday evening service, I had to sing the song again — this time, after a full day of trying to grapple with what it means that these boys lost their father and this woman and child had their man shredded by bullets right in front of them.
How can I sing of America’s beauty when this is what’s happening across our country?
It wasn’t until the last two lines of the first verse that I realized I could make it a prayer:
America, America, God shed His grace on thee/And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
July 18, 2016. NOON.
I opened my email this morning to find The Skimm and learned about police lives lost in Dallas to “snipers” looking down on a peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protest.
Last night, journaling about the men killed by policemen, I struggled with what this country purports to offer its citizens and what it actually delivers. Today, I just don’t know what to say anymore.
None of this is right. Police brutality, racial profiling, assassinations of honorable officers. This is all wrong and I feel powerless. What am I supposed to do? Can I impact the world at all?
I sense a responsibility to not give up hope, to grasp it tightly and multiply it, build up my neighbors, pour out to others.
This week has been heavy and I can’t carry it — but look how many people have been upset by these events. For all the trolls and willfully, rabidly ignorant, there are at least two whose hearts ache over this mess. That’s twice as many.
This week has been filled with wrongs, overrun with evil, driven by hatred and fear and other vile spewings of the human heart. But it’s not without hope. Because there’s me and there’s you and there are countless others united in the conviction that this cannot be our future as a nation.
As we rise and move forward, let’s do so with purpose. Let’s reach out to those different from us, whether ethnically, politically, religiously, or otherwise. Let’s seek to understand our shared humanity. And let’s bathe every effort in prayer.
Do not put your trust in princes,
Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
His spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
In that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the Lord God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow;
But the way of the wicked He turned upside down.
I’m still processing all of this. My emotions have been a wreck. God help us.