Black Lives Matter
It's taken me a few days to be able to do this. I have spent the last week ranting, pacing, wondering, writing, contemplating, deleting, repenting and crying. Actually it took a couple days to get past all the anger and to get to the tears I needed to release, but I got there. And now I find myself in tears several times throughout the day. I find myself sobbing as I write these words. I keep wondering how many deaths weren’t publicly recorded? I wonder how those families will get justice. Apparently in the United States when a black person dies at the hands of a police officer, we need millions of people to sign a petition before an arrest is considered the job of the police force. I find myself wondering if there will ever be justice for George Floyd because they’ve already planted the seed of “underlying health conditions”. And to those who want to consider that line of thought, I had started drafting a sentence to explain why pressing a knee into a man’s neck who is saying he can’t breathe has nothing to do with underlying health conditions, but today I don’t have the energy to explain the obvious.
Anyways, here I am writing because as hard as it may be and as confused as I may be, I cannot wait to feel strong. I cannot wait to have clarity on this. I refuse to be silent in this moment. I will stand for my community, because that’s what we are. A community that has come together not because of the colour of our skin but because of the shared experience of persecution and oppression that our fellow humans heap upon us. We are all so distinct, with such diverse cultures, opinions and religions, but yet we are all connected because when they look at us they do not see beyond our glorious, melanin blessed, chocolate skin. Somehow instead of seeing the beauty in us, they see our shades ranging from smooth caramel to that gorgeous dark brown cocoa and they no longer see a human being just like them.
So let me say this loud and clear. I see you. I see your pain and I feel it too. I know there’s a lot to process for all of us. For all of us as black people coping with the trauma of continued systemic oppression. For all of us as white people working through the emotions of acknowledging the extent of racism in our societies, let alone what roles we may have played in that system and what we do next. For all of us as human beings, as we see another life taken for no good reason and we mourn the death of our last shred of delusion that maybe they would see the wickedness of it all and change. I say to all of us, take it a day at a time, process this and mourn. It’s important that you deal with the trauma of this all, but as you do that, also figure out what it means to be a part of the solution.
Let me also say that I hate the fact that I'm speaking in terms of "us" and "them". I am an idealist. You could accurately describe me as a glass completely full kind of girl. Without fail, I not only look for the best in people, but I search and hold on to it. In my mind there has never been an us and a them. There was always us. Human beings. To an extent, even outside of humans there's all of creation. Every living thing united in one purpose, to give God glory. I don't want an us and a them. I detest it and would love to hide in the fantasy of unity. But to lie to myself and to you would be a waste of time. It will lead us in circles that circumvent healing. The truth is there is an "us" and there’s a "them", because they want it that way.
And for the sake of clarity, I'm not just talking about African Americans vs white police officers. I'm talking about the black community and our allies vs systems of oppression established across the globe. The killings of black people in America is heart breaking, baffling, unjust and a human rights crisis. And yes, I said human rights crisis not a civil right crisis. But it is not limited to America, I struggle to think of a continent including countries in Africa where black people do not face persecution from other skin tones. Please also note that I said “other skin tones” and not just white people. It's not as publicised but it is there. It is overwhelming, it is unfair and it is tiring.
Actually, that’s my default reaction. Usually, when a video comes out of another black person being murdered by a police officer. And once again, let me pause here to say that I detest the fact that I can accurately start that sentence with the word “usually”. But yes usually when this happens, my reaction is that I am tired. And I am so tired. My spirit is weary. But this time around, on top of that tiredness is my rage. I am angry. I'm livid at a world that refuses to be outraged at the legalised murder of black people in a so-called democratic society. And I have tried to calm down, to breathe deeply and explain myself slowly. I’ve attempted to remove the passion out my tone, so I'm not aggressive. I am trying to word my sentences carefully, so we can communicate and they can still feel safe, but communication has to begin with the truth so let me tell you the uncomfortable truth…
This time around you are dealing with an angry black woman. And I’m not just angry at police officers or the societal structure in the USA. I’m hurt by my friends who have been quiet. Who didn’t even blink at this news because it’s not happening to people who look like them. I’m disappointed by Christians, my brothers and sisters in Christ who preach about love and righteousness, but when push comes to shove they rationalise the killing of my people because they don’t share my skin. I’m angry that I had to scroll and search to find a vague neutrally worded article about this issue on the BBC, until the rioting started. I am angry that I find myself grateful when white people share their outrage at this injustice. And believe me I am grateful, but I shouldn't have to be. It should be the norm, in this injustice our allies shouldn't be the minority. I am fuming at your empty platitudes, because apparently when you really care you can raise £650 million for a burnt roof, but a black man dies and you’re asking me what I think you should do? What would you do if Derek Chauvin had his knees on the neck of a white boy and literally got away with murder? Do that! Be outraged!
The ongoing crisis that Black Americans experience is somewhat always at the back of my mind. However, over the last few days my gaze has also turned towards my community and political representatives who accept racist behaviour in the UK and support the ongoing killings of black people in the US with their silence. And in the spirit of demanding accountability, I have turned this gaze on myself. Let me be accountable because I'll continue to be a part of the problem if I don’t acknowledge my part to play in all of this.
I apologise for keeping this issue at the "back of my mind". I apologise for continuing as if life goes on after Eric Garner was killed by Daniel Pantaleo. I apologise for not speaking up after 12 year old Tamir Rice was gunned down by Timothy Loehmann for playing with a toy gun. I apologise for covering my pain about the many deaths and hashtags that I struggle to keep track off. I apologise for silencing my outrage and for hiding my tears. I think most of all, I am sorry for hiding from the trauma of it all. I am sorry for waiting for another tragedy to spur me on to have this conversation. I will do better. I will remember and I will remind you. I am done not talking about this. I am done with being politically correct.
So here I am, still so sad, so weary and still typing because I am trying to write my way into clarity about how to love "them" while I embrace my right to be angry. I am remembering that as much hurt as they may cause me, they are loved by the God who loves me. I will keep my gaze on Him. I will not be driven by hate. I will not let bitterness have a place in me. I will not become a racist. I choose to forgive. I choose to pray for the unification of us and them. I choose to humble my eyes, my ears and heart to God's word and His ways.
But understand this, my God is the Almighty. I am not powerless. I will not be quiet. I will not accept this as a way of life. We, all of us, won't accept this because if you say “all lives matter” then that includes black lives. We will continue to remind you that “black lives matter”.
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Very interesting read @Tomi. Thanks for pouring your heart out on this very distressing and exhausting topic. There’s something really strange about this George Floyd moment. Everyone feels it is different and real change is in the wake. But the emotions are also something of a novelty. Maybe the fact that we are on lock down has worsened things. It has really been hard to process the barrage of events going on. My coping mechanism has been to distance myself as much as i can from the news for my own sanity. I hope you have found yours. And when i think about my counterparts in America, our trauma pales into insignificance, doesn’t it?