So today, I was not scheduled to put out a blog post. But I chose to.
You see, I like waking up in the morning, enjoying my morning devotion and then, over a cup of coffee, I love to scroll on Facebook. This morning, I saw the beautiful picture posted by my childhood friend all the way in Africa. She looks just like she did in high school. I saw a wonderful Canadian beer ad – very, very cool, I might add. It brought tears to my eyes. And then, I saw a click for a video that I hurriedly scrolled past.
After a bit, I realized I was trying really, really hard to ignore the fact that yet another black man had been killed at the hands of the police.
My acknowledgment of this violence would change the tenor of my day that I was so intent on protecting.
Finally, after seeing the video prompt at least 10 times, I just could not walk past it by hurriedly scrolling. I could not ignore it. I saw the lament of every black male I know.
I saw the hashtag #AltonSterling
What happened now? Not again.
My heart feels heavy with helplessness and hopelessness, quite frankly. I am tired of scrolling and seeing this type of violence.
This is not what I intended for my life.
I came to this country as a teenager to get an education and make my life better. What have I to do with the injustices that plague this land? I am the child of a white mother and a Nigerian father. I am not African American. I know for a fact, not all white people are bad. Right? I also know that if blacks were more polite, the police would not kill them. Right? I also know that the man must have been doing something illegal otherwise the police would not have approached him. Right? The police are not bad people and would not just target anyone. Right?
All of that speaks to the naïve assumptions I once had about life in America. Slowly but surely I have come to realize that police brutality against African Americans is brutality against me. And against all of us.
I will never see the situation and understand the situation the way an African American experiences it. However, it affects me, and you, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not. It is our collective problem.
Yup. It affects you too. This is sobering but it is time to wake up. You and I no longer have the luxury to be tired, preferring to ignore the problem in the hopes that it goes away.
Can you believe that I have black male classmates that sometimes we hug each other extra tight because we do not know IF we will actually see each other again? Men, whose intelligence sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight. My idea-partners as we debate and argue together. They walk away from me and the thought actually enters my head that I may never see them again. So I pray for them.
I am working with scholars in the Youth Theological Initiative that are teenage black men who have already seen death and have experienced the threat of their lives because they are housed in black male bodies. So I pray for them.
Sometimes I wonder if my colleague, Dr. Greg Ellison of Fearless Dialogues, will continuously carry his brilliance into the world as he is a black male. The world is so thirsty for his work. So I pray for him.
I whisper sighs of gratitude that my brother and his son live in a part of the country that is mostly unaffected by this type of violence. So I pray for them.
The truth of the matter is that before long, someone I know by name may fall victim to this facet of terrorism facing the black man in this country. Six degrees of separation only.
I promise you, I believe in positive thinking, prayer, Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, Source, Allah, Buddha, visioning desirable outcomes, proclamation, affirmation and LOA and all that good stuff. However, we have to infuse these various expressions of our hopes with a dose of reality every now and then. It helps us enliven our hopes to directly put pressure on our shadow side to heal it.
I am saddened today because there is significant silence on my Facebook timeline.
My International Community: Do you realize as you raise your black sons on this blood-soaked land that their foreign ethnicity does not protect them? In the eyes of hatred, black is black. I do not believe that God hears your prayers of protection of your children and does not hear those of the African American community. Just because you did not grow up with the reality of racism does not mean that you will not be impacted by it. It is not “their” (i.e., an American problem). It is your problem as well.
You cannot ignore the blood that cries from this land as, if we are not careful, our blood may shed too.
Just because you think you have an option that you can move back to your country of origin does not mean that you do not have a voice in this community, on this land, about this issue.
My church community: We love the prophetic and we speak of the Kingdom of God. What are you doing/preaching/practicing to bring the deliverance from the Kingdom of God to the African American male who is slaughtered in the streets? Preaching and teaching that only serves to meet our individual needs and not our communal needs is what Dietrich Bonheoffer would have called “cheap grace.”
My professional community: You can read all the books in the world that you want. You can have the sharpest skill. You can have the smoothest silver tongue. You can make all the money that you want to make. You can pontificate all day and all night. You can drive your fancy cars. However, are you absolutely sure that the next time you are stopped by the police, you will come out of that incident alive? In the eyes of the other, you are still “a black man.”
My Third-Culture Kids community: Don’t escape to fantasies of another life on another continent. Please. It involves you. You are not on the margins. You are dead center. When you belong, and you do belong, you become part of the solution. If not, you are part of the problem.
My business community: If you own a business and you think social justice is your part time hobby, please wake up and smell the coffee. This directly impacts you. Your business serves humans right? Well, guess what, black men are human too. What are you doing to ensure they will be around to buy your products and services?
My white community: You may not be racist. Not intentionally at least. You may not tolerate the “n” word in your orbit. You may even know and love black people. You know and love me, right? But are you part of the silence in the system? Do you think that if you shut up long enough, the problem will go away? Is it your overwhelm and lack of ability to think of tangible solutions that silences you? Are you afraid of what it would cost you to get involved and show empathy? Does black anger frighten you?
My white allies: Thank you. Keep on keeping on. (Not ALL of you are in this category so don’t just jump on this one automatically.)
Hoping the problem away does not fix it.
Ignoring the problem, does not fix it.
Teaching your children to be police-compliant, does not fix it.
It is easy to be outraged about Paris.
What about your own backyard?
Imagine Anton Sterling were your son, would you want the police to handle him like that? Even if he were selling CDs in front of a convenience store? Even if he had a gun to protect himself? (We do not know the whole story and what led to this murder but let us assume the worst.) Even then… did he, a human, deserve that kind of treatment?
Even if he were guilty as hell of a crime, would your white son, the father of your grandchildren deserve to be treated by the police like that?
Imagine he were your co-worker.
Imagine he were your child’s teacher at school.
Someone you know and love.
Maybe even your next-door neighbor.
Deal with the fact that you love your pets more than you love black people. You show outrage when animals are treated badly. What about people?
My hope is that you read this post and you locate the numbness within yourself, that place that does not want to pay this any attention because it is too overwhelming and painful, and begin to ask yourself, “What can I actually do about this?”
And then go do something. Something healing.
Do your part to restore wholeness to this jagged hole in our collective psyche.
Talk to someone about it.
Look at it from a different perspective.
Write the person’s name down.
Know the name.
Acknowledge it is a life.
Post his name on social media.
Watch his son cry.
Don’t wallow in it.
Silence is complicity.
Paint a picture of how you would like to see the police handle black lives in this country.
Use your words and imagination to speak truth to power that the police actually serve and protect us.
Use your business as a platform to heal our world.
Use your international perspective to speak truth to power in this context.
Use your professional voice to speak life where death envelops.
I do not care what color, gender or ethnicity you are, become a “we.”
See this as something that happened to “us.” Not “them.”
You are powerful beyond measure. You can heal this. You have a role in healing our community, our society.
We need you. You need us.
Tweet this: Do your part to heal the hole in our collective community. http://bit.ly/29sekwr
Tweet this: Infuse hope with reality. http://bit.ly/29sekwr
Tweet this: Paint a picture of how you would like to see the police handle black lives in this country. http://bit.ly/29sekwr
Tweet this: Use your words and imagination to speak truth to power. http://bit.ly/29sekwr
Tweet this: Use your business as a platform to heal our world. http://bit.ly/29sekwr
Tweet this: Use your international perspective to speak truth to power in this context. http://bit.ly/29sekwr
Tweet this: Use your professional voice to speak life where death envelopes. http://bit.ly/29sekwr