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Chaos, Social Justice, and Facing Fear in order to Seek God's Face

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What happens to a dream deferred? originally published at www.godsizeddreams.com

Be Gentle StoryPeople by Brian Andreas
For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Emmett Till is ancient history, right? Surely they don’t lynch black boys in America anymore, at least not like they used to. In post-racial America, in the final year of the Obama Presidency, they let them believe they are proud, worthy, beautiful, and free. And then they kill them.

In all the years since the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin, I continue to endure numerous painful conversations with people who love the Lord AND who love me, but insist upon believing that things are not the way they are. People with every good intention need to believe that #BlackLivesMatter is more charged and divisive than relevant, that racism is no longer dangerous, is no longer omnipresent in our lives, that everything in America is okay. Everything is certainly NOT okay.

One year ago writing at TheGuardian.com, Rebecca Carroll declared,
Walter Scott’s death – and Trayvon’s, Michael’s, Tamir’s and Eric’s, all of whom became so familiar to us in death that we refer to them by first name only – is the end of the promise of America. It’s the decay of whatever moral infrastructure we have left as a nation; it’s confirmation of the ugly truth that a nation, conceived in slavery and once dedicated to the proposition that not all men are created equal, will allow that divide to long endure.
Among my dear friends are Christian women, mothers to young and not-so-young Black men. In the wake of such madness, one lamented on social media, "#‎OurExterminationContinues.”

From another, this…
I don't need a brutal video, picture, reporter or sympathizer to *finally* verify what I've known to be true my whole life. What I need - what WE need is far-reaching, purposeful systemic reforms and continuous, consistent JUSTICE. Where can I see *that* on video??? #‎TooManyNamesToHashtag #‎BlackLivesAlwaysMatteredToMe

#TooManyNamesToHashtag…she’s right, and I’m left wiping my tears and shaking my head. We thought that greater oversight would elevate the need for change. We thought that policemen with body cameras might add accountability, but just last week we watched Philando Castile die of a gunshot wound on Facebook Live.

"Dear God, we need You. When will this madness end?"

I hear choked sobs and the bitter words of my friends, Black mothers of sons who like me love God and Justice, nurtured on the same American dream we were all sold like a Bill of Goods, or a Lot of Slaves (yeah, it hurts like that). Too many names to call out, as our ancestors taught us, keeping them alive as we remember them by name. We call out the names of those beloved and fallen, known and unknown to us, experiencing a searing new hurt representing a centuries-old pain.

I ask God daily, “How long, oh Lord, how long?”

I have NOT lost my faith but my spirit grows ever weary. It’s no longer safe to dream that education, access, affluence, or exposure will be enough to see African-American young men out of the toddler phase and into the grandfathering years and beyond…cradle to grave like we imagined.

Like Hannah in 1 Samuel, we prayed, and God granted our petitions in the form of sons to raise and love. We played by the rules, stumbling but ever intending to do our best and then this…it’s not safe to raise a Black Boy in America.

Harder still is struggling to make even Christian friends understand our pain; bridging chasms borne of privilege, guilt, and shame that tell them ignoring or denying race makes it better, or at least more comfortable. I inquire earnestly of those friends, "more comfortable for whom?" What needs erasing is Racism, not race. I do not diminish me so you can feel better; in making your peace you cause me greater pain.

"Colorblind means you choose NOT to see me – Made in the unique and precise image of an All Wise and All Powerful God, I deserve to be seen."

My whole life matters; all of it.
At three, our daughter announced the birth of her baby brother to our tribe and to the world. At sixteen she wept silently beside his bed watching him sleep in heavenly peace on the night the world heard the jury verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin. It’s not just a mother’s grieving. These are the collected terrors and tears of multiple generations.

All Lives Matter, as they always have. HOWEVER, and I won't let this go, I'm not regularly clutching my heart and my head because law enforcement officers (who are NOT a horrible, racist monolith and among whom I count dear family and friends) are killing All boys at an alarming rate. I live in a constant state of unease because Black men (and women, young and old) are beaten, assaulted, and murdered by policemen at an unprecedented rate. #HandsUpDontShoot is a catchphrase in our home for taking it down a notch, but it's a real thing AND I don't think it's a real thing in white homes. 

Have you ever begun a sentence to a loved one with the words "If I die in police custody..."

I say to my son, "I am afraid for your life." It is at those times when I cry out to God.

In Black homes, regardless of region and socio-economics occur several iterations of "The Talk" (ask ANY black parent and they'll knowingly smile and nod). To do anything less would be irresponsible parenting given the current state of affairs.

Saying something matters does not mean anything at all about anything else.
I do not believe in zero sum reckoning. Nothing is ever wasted in God’s economy, so it is never either/or. Some things, actually many things ARE NOT connected. If I say I'm good, I'm not saying anything at all about whether you or anyone else is good or not and therein lies part of our (Black folks, Black women's) frustration. It's not about you (meaning anyone except the Black Girls, or the Black Lives). It can become frustrating when it feels as though someone is consistently co-opting your position, like you can't have a perspective without considering everyone else.

The deepest part of me immediately reacts by saying, "This ain't about you, in fact this has nothing to do with you." But that is incorrect. As Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ, it has everything to do with us all. Quoting Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention,

If we believe that every person will stand before a Judgment Seat, we cannot then stand silently when we see injustice.

Does that make any sense? For me, it's kind of like everyone needing to get a trophy so no one's feelings get hurt. Yes, All Lives Matter. But is that really what you want to say to Trayvon Martin's parents, to Tamir Rice's parents (he was 12), to Eric Garner's wife and family, to the family of Michael Brown, of Walter Scott, of Freddie Gray, of Alton Sterling, and now to Philando Castile. If you're choking me, guess what, everyone needs to breathe, but I'm the only one about to pass out.
Beyond outrage, what is to be done?
  • We must actively seek God, and one another.
  • We must undertake the hard conversations.
  • We need to listen, not to respond. Frankly, I have NO frame of reference for white privilege, but if my intention is to understand, and then to act, I must listen and learn, as must you, in order to move beyond our own anger and disappointment.
  • I must be patient and open to receive as I expect patient understanding from those with whom I dialogue.
  • My anger, both righteous and justified, is not enough. And praise God, I am not alone.
Writer, mother and friend Lori Harris recent gave voice to a collective frustration existing among members of the Body of Christ. In a Facebook post, she says in part,

Until the {white} Church in America chooses to acknowledge its hand in heaping judgment or prejudice on our black neighbors who already carry on their backs a thousand reasons why our country deems their plight in this life as justified or even deserved, we will continue to deny the very existence of Jesus who made us guiltless while we were yet guilty of every imaginable sin.
May Jesus have mercy on us.

It’s not safe to be a black boy in America. It’s not safe to be a Black Man. But if we want to change the world, and I do, it’s time. My dreams can no longer be deferred.

OneWord 2015

OneWord 2015

C'mon. Follow along. Please?