Earlier the year, I began to research places we considered traveling this summer—Estonia and the other Baltics were competing with Iceland for top spot. We finally settled on a dark horse not in contention—Croatia and Montenegro, with day trips to Slovenia and Bosnia.
It’s been a top five destination for me since I saw a photo of Montenegro, a country I’d never heard of, on a National Geographic cover in the dentist’s office. So when I saw tickets come across that were significantly cheaper than the norm, I grabbed those and let the other two places wait for another day. (Of course, now, it’s all a giant unknown. At least we’ve had a lot of practice with that lately.)
But the research got me.
After perusing the standard tourist pages, I dove into the history of the Baltics. I learned the stories of their occupation—Estonia has hardly known freedom in its entire existence—and the particular horror since WW2. I encountered stories of families torn apart and lives lost in desperate bids for freedom boating across to Finland.
“The Soviet policy of ‘Russification,’ implemented soon after the occupation, amounted to cultural genocide. It forbade the Estonian flag, imprisoned resistors, and made Russian the official language of the country. Tens of thousands of Russian workers were brought in to dilute the ethnic Estonian population. Estonians became serfs to their masters in Moscow. Within six years of the first Soviet troops arriving in Estonia, the country lost about 25% of its population to execution, imprisonment, deportation, and escape.”
I read about over two million Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians joining hands across the length of the three countries to protest for self-rule. Who could not admire the resilience, creativity, and courage of a people whose entire population sings their way to freedom?
Moving on to our new destination, I began to read of the breakup of Yugoslavia. In these countries, sadly, people did not sing or grasp neighbors’ hands to fulfill their dreams of freedom. Instead, many turned on one another, neighbor against neighbor in Bosnia. Snipers picked off Muslim citizens who dared to leave their houses in daylight, and families buried their dead in the dark for safety. This history I’d remembered, of course. Only vaguely, though.
My own history has made me ignorant of much that has gone on in the world. I was never taught history. Oh, I remember learning American history repeatedly, year after year. Not once, however, do I recall learning world history, except as it impinged on America occasionally in the form of war.
Then in the 90’s when the seams of the USSR were ripping apart, I was giving birth to three kids and noticing very little outside my small world of diapers and Barney and trying to continue a writing career between breastfeeding and nap times. Oh, and I was also going to seminary. So world news wasn’t top of mind.
Now, however, I know.
Knowing makes the world closer. It humanizes events. It gives faces to people who only want to live with self-determination of the details of their own lives.
These are the Ukrainian people. My heart breaks for them and prays for their freedom and peace.
Leaving the European political scene, these are also transgender teenagers in Texas. These are Afghan, Syrian, Guatemalan refugees. These are women in abusive situations. These are black Americans trying to birdwatch in a park.
In Genesis God gave humans dominion to grow, learn, and be free in the land. God gifted humanity with agency and purpose. Taking those things away is the most devastating thing one can do to a human soul, because they were the first gift of a loving God who knew the created ones completely. It’s also, as Lisa Sharon Harper points out in her new book, Fortune, the first weapon of a conquering people.
Take away agency, and you take away the will to fight.
This is why I weep for the Ukranians and others who might be next in the path of a lust for power.
This is why I fight for my black siblings who still can’t live, work, get an education, drive, walk, jog, or wear a hoodie in the place of their choosing.
This is why I set up apartments for refugees and support sanctuaries to women fleeing a dictatorship in their own living rooms.
This is why I’m learning about teenagers who don’t feel like their bodies are obeying their very souls and fear telling anyone about this struggle inside.
Because God created people for good, peacemaking kinds of freedom. Not the kind of “freedom” that denies responsibility for our fellow humans in favor of personal preference and rights. that’s not God-given freedom–Paul calls that indulgent selfishness.
“You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.” (Galatians 5.13, CEB).
God created humans to be free in the original Edenic definition.
Are we ready for a round up post? On February 1? Of course we are. Because we know:
1) I’m not usually on time for these sorts of things.
2) You got inundated with that jazz last month, and now you actually have time to look at these things.
See? I planned that out. So here we go. My favorite things of 2020.
Five favorite books
OK, 7. Because choosing is hard, and I could have easily picked twelve.
I met my goodreads goal of 35! I know that’s not a ton, but 2020. I was tired. We were all tired. I spent the first third of the year finishing and defending my thesis. Plus also, I did a lot of puzzles. Finishing the goal is a win. It doesn’t matter what the goal was. I finished.
Let’s not waste our time moving goal posts on ourselves because we don’t think what we did was good enough. Not Spoiler: it was good enough. We made it.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Enough said. Truth – I’ve never read it. I’ve been a little major and an English teacher, and I have never read this book. Now I have, and now it has changed me. It makes me sad to see how much has not really changed. To see the world through the eyes of a child and to see her slow awakening to what people to what people are capable of, both good and bad, is enchantingly and devastatingly told.
From Burned Out to Beloved: Soul Care for Wounded Healers. Bethany D. Hiser. As a pastor and as a person who is constantly trying to save the world (is that redundant?), I found this work indispensable. Ms. Hiser helps people like me to pull back and to see ourselves. She helps us to equip others rather than to “save” them. In the process, we learn how to love and be blessed by our work rather than burned out. After the year we’ve just had, this is required reading for caregivers of any sort.
Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Eugene Peterson. Peterson’s work is so challenging for pastors and so absolutely necessary. I needed this this year. Desperately. His whole section on rest and Sabbath is something I had been contemplating and wrestling with for a while, and this book blew it wide open.
Sabbath is a chance to let God do what God does best, without my interference. It’s my chance to join that after stopping long enough to see and to hear it.
The God Who Sees, Karen Gonzales. Gonzales puts the story of her family’s journey from Guatemala to the United States alongside the nomads of Scripture. The foreigners, those on the margins, those of whom God tells us to take special care. She explains to the reader God’s heart for those who find themselves on this journey and how we can make that struggle easier. I love the way she puts the stories together and the research she does into this very difficult issue.
Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell. I will inherently love anything Gladwell writes. This book is quite timely, given our desperate need to hear what others are thinking and understand where they’re coming from. His exploration of how our different backgrounds and “languages” of communication affects the way we understand one another is fascinating. Gladewell is always a winner for me. He’s what I want to be when I grow up.
The Sun Does Shine, Anthony Ray Hinton. What can I even say? This man lost most of his life in prison. Why? Because, to summarize the words of those who arrested him, “they will convict any black man of the crime, and you are as good as any other.” It’s not just a story of one man’s injustice though. It’s a story of the relationships he made in prison and what all of us can learn from listening to those men alone in their cells. The relationship between the author and the klansman was so crazy and beautiful. This is one of the men you meet in the movie Just Mercy. You should meet him in this book, too.
Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior. As the Goodreads descriptions says, this book is for, “Anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.” Dr. Prior tells her memoir through literature, and this is so relatable to me. As a little girl who could never be torn away from a book, I could also tell my life through stories. Some of the stories she chooses could also be mine. I love the mingling of memoir and literature and life. This, too, is how I could explain out my life.
Five favorite recipes
Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Fettuccini Yes please. Pasta. Garlic. Sun-dried Tomatoes. The word “creamy.” It’s all there.
Cinnamon Roll Macarons. Hands down the best macarons I’ve ever made. Only I put chocolate ganache filling in, because who doesn’t’t love cinnamon and chocolate???
Vaca Frita de Pollo. One of the women in our church was making this while on zoom, and I NEEDED the recipe. It was all I dreamed of.
Chicken Normandy. Do it on a cold day when you have lots of time and want the most delicious chicken dinner you’ve ever had, possibly.
Za’atar Man’ouche. I saw this on a travel show and said—I need this in my life! And what do you know? Our kid had given us zaatar in a Christmas gift. Here you are. You’re welcome.
Thing I’m most proud to have made: Two of the kids gave me a Great British Bakeoff Book, and let me tell you, everything in it I’ve made is incredible. But this was quite the challenge.
Five favorite podcasts
2020 was not a good year for podcasts. I generally listen to them in the car, and, well, I didn’t spend much time in the car this year. Like, we saved a lot of money on gas, maintenance, and we should have just probably cancel the insurance. I hardly drove that thing. So I’ve been missing my podcasts. But these have been my favorites.
That we learned to slow down and live without the unnecessary things we thought were so important.
That we said “enough” to injustice and decided to change ourselves in order to change our culture. We also decided to stop engaging with the nonsense and just get to work.
That many of us came to appreciate in a new way those who keep the gears running and keep us safe. Healthcare workers, food workers, delivery drivers and sanitation workers. Those who bring my groceries to my door and those who hover over ICU patients, for 36 hours straight. Please, let us not forget. Oh and by the way, a lot of those people are immigrants.
The thing that happened this year I desperately needed and didn’t know I did. Can you guess?
That’s it. That’s my round up. What about you? What were the things you loved about 2020? What are the things you’ll remember and take forward? I would love to hear.
So many headlines have the ability lately to make us all curl up in our fetal positions and sob until Jesus comes back. It doesn’t take much anymore, even. We’re tired. We’re done. This one did it for me the last couple weeks, though.
“ICE guards ‘systematically’ sexually assault detainees in an El Paso detention center.”
You know by now I have a heart for immigrants and refugees. You also know, probably, that I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I’m seeing red that we can allow this to happen within our borders. This is’t the only facility for which compelling evidence is available, either.
I’m also seeing a tale as old as time.
Exodus and ICE
We’ve been walking through the Bible, slowly. We’ve already dived into Exodus a bit, but now, we’re going to back up. I know, I’m going about all this a bit haphazardly.
This is the excuse for everything for the foreseeable future. Every single thing that doesn’t line up as it should have is because pandemic. We get a free pass. It’s just truth.
So, Exodus out of order. There is something here we must see.
We ended Genesis with Joseph triumphant, but we open Exodus with an entirely different history. Joseph is dead. Nobody cares. There’s a new ruler in town, and history is not his strong suit.
Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are.We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”
So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. (Exodus 1.8-11)
Pharaoh is an insecure human and ruler. He looks around one day and sees the number and strength of the foreigners in “his” land. It frightens him. Rather than see the advantages they bring to his country, he gives unfettered reign to unfounded fear. Remember what we learned in Genesis? Israel was created to bless others, but too often, they allowed fear to drive rather than blessing.
The Israelites have done nothing to cause fear. They’ve lived peacefully in the land. Their numbers have added to the tax roles, however those existed in Egypt (I’m not exactly an expert there). They’ve undoubtedly added heft to the Egyptian economy. One hopes their faith values have given them extra care toward their neighbors. (It appears they persuaded the midwives to become believers at any rate.)
Fear Is a Bad Driver
Yet Pharaoh sees only their presence and his fear that one day, they might shift the balance of power away from people like him.
So Pharaoh’s solution is to dehumanize them. He tries to crush their spirits, their hope, and even their bodies. He forces on them the work no one else wants for slave wages. He calls them names like lazy and worthless. He attempts to assimilate them into his people by murdering their boys so that the girls will eventually intermarry, or worse, and dilute any Hebrew blood or loyalties.
Tyrants and insecure kings do this. It’s common throughout history. His playbook is not new or original, and it’s been borrowed over the millennia.
What Pharaoh does to the “other” in his land is nothing that hadn’t been done and isn’t being done in human history. Fear drives humans to evil things. There is always someone to put down.
Are you catching on that I think this might have some relevance to the present?
Earlier this year, I heard Jennifer Guerra Aldana speak these powerful words about this very story that I’ve found so invaluable over the lat year:
“Evil is so predictable. Love is always innovative.”
We know what evil will do. It doesn’t change.
It will always try to destroy and dehumanize. It will always seek to instill fear where love should be. Evil will consistently demonize others in order to feel more secure itself. History is littered with the strategies of evil, and they are always the same.
Make someone else the scapegoat for created fears, and whip up those fears so that people will do whatever it takes to relieve them.
Evil doesn’t have One Creative Idea. It’s so very, sadly, predictable. I loved hearing Jennifer point this truth out so clearly.
Love Is Innovative
Love will always find a way around that. Love is creative. It’s smart. It’s determined and persevering. Love is one of the three things Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 will last forever. He also says it’s is the greatest of those three.
And God is always on the side of love.
He proves it in the most ingenious ways possible. When Pharaoh seeks to destroy the Hebrew baby boys, God saves Moses out of that mess. Pharaoh’s own daughter finds him and brings him home as her son. So what is the inevitable result of that? Moses gets raised in the courts of power. He is educated with the best of the best and taught to be a leader. He knows all the ins and outs of the royal world. And eventually, he will use that knowledge and education to bring about the next Pharaoh’s destruction.
It’s an Inside Job
God uses the tyrant’s own strategies to bring him down. Without his murder of the boys, Moses would have grown up to be just another Hebrew slave. But he didn’t. Talk about just desserts.
Evil is so predictable. Love is always innovative.
Quite a lot of evidence exists to prove that thoughts like Pharaoh’s are wrong. Check out the charts below if you want to know some of the advantages immigrants bring to a culture.
Yet it was that shifting of the balance of power that really got him riled up. I believe that’s still true because, remember, evil is predictable. We know statistics tell us that in a couple decades, whites will be the minority in this country. That makes some feel insecure, just like Pharaoh did. It makes some worried. In fact, a large percentage of people who call themselves believers are on record as saying this is a bad thing.
“Fifty-four percent (of white evangelicals) say the U.S. becoming a majority-non-white nation will be mostly negative and 44 percent say it will be mostly positive.
White evangelicals are the only major religious group to express such worry over the demographic realignment.
Those concerns among white evangelicals also extend to immigrants, refugees, and other international visitors to the U.S.
More than half of white evangelicals (57 percent) say immigrants threaten traditional American custom and values, while 43 percent say immigrants strengthen our society.
Again, white evangelicals are the only religious group in which a majority feel this way.”
Why? We fear the shift. Like Pharaoh, we don’t have facts to back up this fear. But facts matter little when we can stoke fears until no one really knows where they originated and on what they were based. The feeling takes over. The backdrop was lost long ago.
This, by the way, is what makes it easy to repost those negative stories about black or latino men. It helps us to believe our own fear.
We are still living the lies of Pharaoh. And we haven’t remembered things did not end well for him. God was not on his side.
God moved on the side of the immigrant baby, Moses. God moved on the side of the lower-class midwives, Shiprah and Puah. God moved on the side of a princess who dared to defy a xenophobic decree. God moved on the side of an entire nation that was delivered through the deadly water of the Red Sea by the same immigrant baby, all grown up and ready to do as God called.
Evil is so predictable. Love is always innovative.
We have the history in front of us in the book of Exodus. Let’s learn from it and be the innovative ones.
The principal called me into the office to “talk.” No, I wasn’t a student in trouble. I was one of the teachers. She folded her hands across the desk, looked at me and informed me that I had a “couple” in my homeroom that I needed to do something about. They were displaying “poor judgment.”
Couples in high school and poor judgment are rarely mutually exclusive, but I didn’t see how that was something requiring my intervention. As delicately as possible, she informed me that the girl in my junior homeroom and her senior boyfriend would struggle because they came from different backgrounds. Their minds and future plans were unequal. Their family expectations completely at odds. It wouldn’t be healthy. I needed to talk to the young lady and explain to her why this relationship could not be pursued.
I may have recently graduated with honors from one of the nation’s best universities, but it took several minutes for young, naive me to grasp the clear subtext hanging above both our heads. My student was white. Her boyfriend was black.
I played innocent and wondered aloud why the students should be broken up and not allowed to come to this conclusion themselves. I defended the young man as a very nice boy that could be good for a scattered, confused, and conflicted girl. I explained that surely this job fell to her parents if they felt concern, not to me.
I did not confront what I knew I heard. I hoped that if it appeared I couldn’t imagine race as a consideration for the relationship’s demise, maybe she would realize that it shouldn’t be.
A few months later, when choosing ideas for argument in the debate class I taught, the topic of mixed race marriages came up. I let them debate it. I didn’t get called in again, but the grapevine told me of her deep displeasure. I still did not understand. It was a Christian school, right? So everyone would be considered equal in a Christian school, right? Isn’t that what Jesus taught?
I had no clue, at 22, the depths of what I was dealing with.
When the Ferguson protests erupted several years ago, I couldn’t make sense of all the things I heard. I had taught school right in the middle of the Ferguson-Florissant area. It wasn’t like that. Our black and white students got along fine. Everyone was happy. Had things changed so much in the ensuing decades?
In the last few months, I’ve revisited those days. I have thought about those black students. I’ve put on new lenses and discovered a few things I missed.
One thing I missed was that there were exactly two black students in each high school class. I’m pretty sure this is accurate, looking back. I didn’t notice it at the time. Did we have a quota? Did we have a number of students “like that” we allowed in each year to show how benevolent we were?
Now, I remember they were usually the students with the lowest grades. The young man in the dating scenario above could barely read and write above a grade school level, though he was a senior in high school. At the time, it angered me that he had come so far and no one had done anything about that. How was I supposed to catch that up as his senior English teacher? I assumed, though, it was part of his background, not part of his education.
In fact, I went along with all the assumptions about our black students—that these were underprivileged children from whom not much more could be expected and, though no one ever said it, wasn’t it good of the school to provide them with a place to be for six hours that was Christian? God knew what happened when they went home.
How is it that no one ever said these things yet no one questioned them, either? How is it that kids I remember as smart, capable students still got marked down for their “attitude” while their white peers’ equal attitude got indulgent smiles and assumptions that they would someday make good leaders?
I wonder now what happened to that very gentle, kind young man whom we failed. It never occurred to me that teaching the token students wasn’t really a priority.
The black students were also often the ones most in trouble. Not in my classes. My most troublesome students were generally sons of the church elders. Yet several black students whom I found engaging and lively in my classes told me tales of detention and punishment because they mouthed off or talked too much class. Those detentions happened a lot. They interfered a lot with my speech and theater groups. It didn’t occur to me that my white talkative, sassy students—whom I also enjoyed—didn’t view the inside of those detention rooms with such regularity.
I never noticed.
One of those church elder’s sons vandalized my car his senior year. The same principle asked me to forgive and forget. She didn’t want the boy to have a record. She didn’t want his future to be in jeopardy. Bringing in police would harm our reputation. More to the point, she didn’t want his parents to stop contributing. I conceded, not because I agreed but because his co-conspirator was already 18, and I didn’t want that young man to have a permanent police record.
I wonder now what would’ve happened if one of the black students had vandalized my car.
I wonder now if the black and white students really did get along so well. I wonder how many black students were invited to the white students’ parties or on a Friday night drive around town. I wonder what the lunch room looked like that I don’t remember ever visiting. I never heard or saw racial intimidation between students. I never noted any animosity between them. Yet I rarely saw intentional inclusion, either. I wonder now how much code-switching those kids had to endure at a young age in order to fit in.
I just never noticed.
I didn’t see that I was teaching in a refuge of whiteness more than a refuge of faith.
I’ve learned a few other things since then as well. I’ve learned how many Christian schools were founded not so that students could be kept safe in a Christian bubble but so that they could be kept safe in a white bubble. Given the location of the school, I feel certain of this heritage. Ferguson-Florissant has changed in the ensuing decades, but not that much. I simply didn’t see what was around the edges of the bubble. I didn’t see that I was teaching in a refuge of whiteness more than a refuge of faith. Or that some there conflated the two.
I couldn’t have known any of that, commuting as I did from a surprisingly more diverse area a half an hour south of it. I didn’t know it fresh out of my own university bubble where the only minority students I ever really interacted with were the Jewish ones, because at Wash U, they weren’t a minority.
I am processing all of this now. Realizing much of it just now. I haven’t thought about those years in a long time. I’m processing that the curriculum we taught has long been considered an extremely white-centered curriculum. It’s also extremely popular among Christian home and private schoolers. I knew none of this, because I knew nothing about racism other than that it was something that happened on the south side of Chicago and the north side of St. Louis. I didn’t grow up around it, so it didn’t exist.
Our school books contained such gems as a poem about Robert E Lee being a kind and gentle person who would never hurt a bunny, much less a slave. At least, that last was the implication. Our history books taught my students that most slaves were happy, cared for, and lucky that they came to America so they could hear about Jesus.
I wonder what our eight black students thought about that. I bet they never said.
I kept those books for decades, because I enjoy having anthologies of literature around. Now that I’d like to look at them again, to examine the specificities of what I taught and whether I ever saw the bias inherent in them, I finally tossed them into the recycling last fall. One of those few times decluttering has bitten me in the butt.
I taught those things. I thought them to impressionable teenagers. I want to say that my material couldn’t have covered such dubious revisionist history since I was their literature teacher. But literature has power. Words build up or tear down. Ideas in literature have fomented revolutions, brokered peace, and empowered abolitionists. Words matter, and when we choose which words and whose words to include in our children’s education, we choose the ideas they will believe. I suspect I know what words I would find in those old books.
I think about all these things now because I must. I didn’t think about any of them then because I didn’t have to. This, I suppose, is my point. As a young English teacher, grateful to have a job, any job, teaching I never saw what I didn’t see. I never knew what I didn’t know. Yet, I did participate in racism.
I rebelled at it when I saw it in school administration. I embraced the challenge of debating racial issues in class, thus knowingly thumbing my nose at said administration.
But I didn’t question the underlying assumptions of the entire school philosophy. I believed in the subtle superiority they taught me. Because of that, I know now that whatever racism those eight students in the high school experienced, I played a part in it. It wasn’t intentional. It didn’t have to be.
One of the things I’ve learned in my dive into racial inequity is the chasm between intent and effect. White people like myself usually focus on intent. Since we “don’t have a racist bone in our bodies”—since we can’t imagine intentionally inflicting racism on someone—we assume we’ve built up a kind of immunity when it comes to causing racial harm.
I had the best of intentions.
If I didn’t mean it, it didn’t happen.
Problem is, what people of color experience are the effects, not the intentions. If I didn’t mean to leave the cabinet door open and my husband cracks his head on it, he’s still got a throbbing bruise.
It’s helped me a lot to realize that the excuse of “good intentions” feels good to me because it lets me off the hook, but it doesn’t feel good at all to the person who has been hurt. When the ambulance gets called, no one cares if the injury was intentional. They care if the patient will live.
Another thing I’ve learned is that it does me no injury to say I’m sorry. I lose no ground. I lose no face. I lose nothing in the act of apologizing for harm that has been inflicted, intentional or not. It is purely pride that refuses such humility, and pride has no place in the kingdom of Jesus.
So students, wherever you are, I am sorry. I didn’t know. But now I know better.
He was the first black teacher I had ever had–the first the seminary had ever hired. In his class, we read about various groups of people often misunderstood– and tried to formulate a Christian response to their experiences.
The Black Experience?
I read first all the material on the black experience. I didn’t get it. Anger jumped off the pages, and I couldn’t understand why. What made these people so angry? Why couldn’t they address their own issues? Why could they not address them in a kind, thoughtful, appropriate way?
The way I would address them. The way a white, middle class, mother of two felt things should be done.
The Experience of Women
Then we began the section on women. I read of abuse, rape, assault, and oppression. Lack of job opportunities and lack of respect. And I got angry, Real, real angry. I knew sexual abuse. I knew cat calling and male “ownership,” demeaning social expectations, and even Christian pressure to shove myself into a mold I didn’t fit. I knew all this personally, not statistically.
I knew the fear of going out too early or staying out too late simply because of my gender. I knew the worry about looking in my back seat and carrying my keys to hurt an assailant. I knew about women who were blamed for their own assault because of what they were wearing–I knew some of them personally. I knew these things, and I knew men did not have any idea of them.
I did not feel kind or thoughtful about it all. I felt angry. Angry that I had to live with the background noise of fear because I was born a woman, and no other reason.
And then, as God does, He lit the 500 watt lightbulb above my head that I had completely missed. Was this the way those black men and women felt? That was my first moment of grasping the tiniest bit of what my sisters and brothers of color feel. I will never forget it.
I have not watched the video. You know the one I mean. The one where a black man, on a jog, is murdered by vigilante men who still believe, apparently, that they live in the wild west and they are required to enforce laws themselves, with shotguns, or we will all devolve into some lawless dystopia.
Side Note: We live in one of the safest countries in the world. We have precious little need to be the good guy with the gun. Statistically speaking, the odds of a robbery in your home are approximately twice as likely as getting struck by lightning in your lifetime. “So proportionally speaking, you should prepare for a home invasion twice as much as you prepare for being hit by lightning.”
Further, more than half of all armed robberies are drug related. So, steer clear of doing or dealing drugs, and your lifetime need for concern is miniscule. Good news, right?
But Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t breaking into anyone’s home. He was running. He was guilty of running while black. And that earned him the death penalty.
Happy Mother’s Day
Today, as I write this, his mama is having to live through Mother’s Day without her child. This is not a thing we would ever, ever wish on anyone. Yet this is both the common nightmare and experience of black mamas around our country.
I know some of them. I also know a number of white mamas with black sons. They know this fear in ways that we can never know. Ways that I can understand, because I’m the mother of three daughters. I have taught them from an early age that this world is not safe for them, either. It makes me angry that I have to do so. No one has ever had to explain to a white son that this world is not made for or safe for them. So I do understand these mamas fear and anger.
No one has ever had to explain to a straight, white son that this world is not made for or safe for them.
The deep need for a certain segment of men in this country to play vigilante self-appointed sheriff, living out their fantasy of chasing down the bad guys and making the collar, a mixture of all the John Wayne and Die Hard movies and cop shows they’ve digested, collides with something even more insidious to create the state we find ourselves in.
The belief, still, among some of those men that black bodies are theirs to do with what they like. The need to fly giant confederate flags is a symptom of this deeply embedded national sickness—some white men believe they should still have the right to be the masters over black men. They have not let this go. This is uncomfortable truth.
White Women–Listen Up, Please
White women, I’m going to talk to you. You are a large portion of my audience. And you are powerful. Demographically, you are said to be one of the most potentially strong groups to swing elections. Here is what I need to say to you.
It should not be deadly to run.
It should not be deadly to sit in your living room.
It should not be deadly to drive down a residential street.
It should not be deadly to fit any description that only includes “black.”
Existing while black is not a crime. It does not deserve death.
No mama should have celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday without her child because he was born black and that got him killed. None.
We can change this.
We cannot continue to vote for candidates who mouth the words “pro life” yet remain unconcerned about the death, demeaning, and destruction of people of color.
We cannot continue to rationalize and excuse and say “but not all” anyone. We need to see the truth that some, not all, need desperately to be talked about and dealt with.
We cannot continue to be silent. We cannot continue to not know. We cannot continue to offer thoughts and prayers alone.We have to show up.
Go deep into your experience and tell me you don’t know what it’s like to fear simply because of your genetics, and then look at your black and Latinx brothers and sisters. Look, and listen. We are more alike than you believe.
It is the opposite of pro life to accept them as collateral damage in order to gain some semblance of “rights” we think we need. This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity. What does it mean to gain the world and lose your soul, women? This is that intersection.
This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity.
Here are some resources I’m learning from. Please offer some you know of. We can lean in, learn, and act together.