by Acasia Olson
My heart hurts and I don’t know where to begin. My goal is to find a healthy balance between the heavy emotions that course through my spirit and the clinical logic that allows me to piece everything together. I’ve attempted to write and rewrite only to find myself at a dead end. This country is at a dead end and we need to course correct soon. Too many children suffer and die and I don’t know why their cries, trembling fears, why their concerns are not at the forefront of our minds. I don’t know how and why a child’s life is less valuable than that of a dog. We go up in arms to defend and protect inanimate objects such as guns and so many graves are being filled with the bodies of children who once ran around and played on swings or sang about what they wanted to be when they grow up. We will never get it right if we don’t learn how to honor and respect, serve and protect each other. I’ve felt everything from sorrow, confusion, anger and disappointment all in 24 hours but I also feel this more often than not as a person of color living in America.
I have scrolled through comment after comment on my Facebook newsfeed and almost 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people are still hurting and frustrated. However, what I found most fascinating is that every single post and response on my newsfeed was by another black person. The common misconception held by the dominant culture is that we are living in a post-racial society or that we are supposed to just ignore it and pretend it’s not there and somehow the foolishness will cease and desist. Racism is like a cancer. It feeds on people and it’s pervasive and it sucks the life out of our society affecting everyone. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil”. You can’t just ignore it and pretend everything is alright. If someone you know is suffering and you see them suffering but you walk by them as if nothing is wrong what does that say about you?
I’m so torn right now. This makes no sense at all. I’m trying to find the words to articulate my frustrations. This is not for one incident in our country…what I’m feeling is an accumulation of countless acts of stupidity and injustice. Countless acts of terror against black and brown people being for no other reason than being black or brown. Whether we walk alone or walk in pairs or a group, we’re still a ‘perceived threat’ to be apprehended by the cops or some lunatic vigilante who feels that taking the law into his own hands is justifiable when the person in question is a child wearing a hood. Once upon a time in our history the very ancestors of our lawmakers and law enforcement wore hoods and went around on foot and on horse attacking innocent lives and destroying communities.
Men in white hoods who concealed their identity because they were such cowards are now men in black robes who sit around debating the “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” It’s funny because this country has seen centuries of racial entitlement and the very act intended to protect the rights of men and women, who were LEGALLY oppressed, has now been struck down by the SCOTUS.
I wish we didn’t have to explain that racism hurts everyone or that in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” cowards run around attacking children and searching teenage boys coming home from a graduation party or calling little boys Niggers. But when you’re black in America that just happens to be the reality and the lesson about bigotry continues.
I had a conversation with my husband the day the verdict was announced. We sat on a park bench watching the sun set the birds fly freely and listening to the steady lap of water licking up against the shore. Children were playing on the playground behind us. I thought about my amazing, intelligent, talented, handsome male cousins who are young but have experienced racism and no, they don’t all live in the south. I think of my own unborn children and the many young children of color growing up in this country. If I have a son, he will be tall, toned, beautiful and unfortunately, he will be an endangered member of the human race. My children, our children shouldn’t have to be given another set of instructions on how to behave or an addendum on how to keep from being shot or targeted. How many white families sit down with their children and tell their sons not to not wear a hoodie, not walk around the neighborhood with headphones or to look over your shoulder for people who might follow them in the store or their own neighborhood? How many white families have to worry about the day their child comes home crying because they aren’t black and no-one likes white kids only black kids? When was the last time a little white boy or girl wondered why they saw so many black children on t.v. and not enough children who looked like themselves? How will I explain to my son that driving while black is a risk? Why does WALKING while black have to be a cause for concern. The little children playing behind us on the playground didn’t have a care in the world, and they shouldn’t. I imagine their parents didn’t have a care outside of the normal worry of child abductions or a scrape from falling off the playground equipment. A black mother, regardless of education, income and marital status is at greater risk for giving birth to a pre-term child than a white woman. A black parent is far more likely to bury their child due to homicide, the leading cause of death for Black males ages 15 – 24, than any other leading cause of death. Why must I pray extra hard at night for protection over my child because society doesn’t value his life more than that of a damn dog. A dog people. A black man serves a two-year prison sentence forshooting himself in the foot, a black man serves a two-year prison sentence for dog fighting and a young black male was put on trial for his own murder because a fool decided to attack him and he, the unarmed Trayvon Martin, acted in self-defense while his murderer walks free with the same gun he used to commit the crime.
I ask my Maker more often than not, “why do they hate us? What did I do to deserve so much hatred? Why do they hate my people? Really, what did and what do black people do to warrant such vilification and evil treatment? Why is my skin, facial features, hair texture, build, and ancestry portrayed as ignorant, vulnerable, weak, wrong, slow, bad?”
I’ve heard several responses to this question. One has always been this notion of Black people being such a threat that the dominant culture and bigots don’t want our power and privilege to be taken from them. There are others who say that Black people are killing each other left and right so how can we argue that one group of people hates us more than we hate ourselves. If you haven’t heard of the Willie Lynch Letter, let me inform you that slave masters successfully divided to conquer and this method has continued for generations and generations. When you live in a culture where the media perpetuates negative and degrading images of your race you start to develop self hate and low self worth and end up with an identity crisis. Let’s be real, how many non-blacks wish they were black? Sure people like to bastardize our culture but no one wants to be black. Not when black people are constantly dragged in the mud and treated like we come from another planet.
“There is a higher court than courts of justice, and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”
Unfortunately, this country has been knocked unconscious by the spirit of greed and conquest and apathy. Writing and reciting these words won’t put an end to the violence and sitting around upset and distraught won’t bring back the stolen lives nor will it right the wrongs of our nation. A lot of us have said that this shouldn’t be a surprise, that we got our hopes up and that we shouldn’t have expected justice to put her blindfold back on when she’s been wearing shades for centuries. I was talking to one of my big brothers about this and told him that I would love to take to the streets riding on top of the “Anti-Racism” machine shouting out to all the blind and ignorant bigots across the nation. It would be a national abolish racism tour and I would encourage folks to just stop and have empathy, and listen to each other’s stories, and build compassion. I would organize meetings and conversations with community leaders, community members, people in positions of authority and then we’d all play figurative duck duck goose and go around and figuratively slap some sense into people’s heads to wake them up!
The silver lining in all of this is that people have been jarred but we need to act. We need to mentor children, especially black and brown children who are bombarded with messages that erode their self worth. We need to unite across color lines and move beyond conversations on race and start being the change. We need not grow weary in making progress and in doing good.
In spite of it all, I will take my direction from the Prince of Peace who reminds me that my feet are to be fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace…I will walk in peace.
The other day I found myself in church. I had a lot of mess to sort through and only God could handle my ugly. The worship team was playing Casting Crown’s “Praise You in this Storm”. It was just what I needed in that moment:
I was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say, Amen and it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain, ‘I’m with you’
And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands
And praise the God who gives and takes away
And I’ll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands
For You are who You are no matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hand
You never left my side and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm