“I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people.” – Brittney Cooper
All of us are yearning to be free.
And yet, we are taught to be afraid. We are taught to cage ourselves. Lock up the fear. Lock up the sorrow. Lock up the rage.
Don’t look at ourselves.
Worse, we are taught to cage one another. Don’t look at him! Don’t look at her! Lock them away! Run! Hide!
And then we (some of us) wonder why a young man or woman seeking help are killed instead of given comfort, medical attention, or access to a phone.
We (some of us) wonder why, yet another young man who was just walking to his grandmother’s house ends up lying dead on the street for four hours. When people are mourning, being taunted by police, and the armored cars, snipers and SWAT teams roll in…we then (some of us) wonder why some windows are broken and some stores are set on fire.
And then we (some of us) wonder why – after our government has toppled small government after small government, instituted a war on drugs that has destabilized whole communities at home, locked up unprecedented numbers, and given greater power to those who make the drugs – the children are massing at our borders.
We wonder. But we still can’t quite look at one another. We still feel so afraid, some of us.
We have made strangers of each other. And yet, there are always times in which we become the stranger. We have forgotten what it feels to not be welcomed in.
Sometimes I want to shout “White Americans! Wake up! We are killing our brothers and sisters!”
But I know it won’t help. So I write reasoned articles and occasional angry ones. I write about the boys gunned down in my community or lead study group on mass incarceration. I go to vigils. Rallies. Marches. I scrub pots. Trying to do something. Anything.
And I still want to shout, “White Americans! We’ve been made to feel afraid! And that fear is blinding us to the systems that cause suffering. Together, we are causing grievous harm.”
It’s too much to bear, isn’t it? But some people don’t have a choice but to bear it. They live with it every day.
The rest of us?
When we are made to feel afraid, we turn away.
The abused are trained to not talk about the abuse. It keeps the system in place. And when it becomes necessary, not talking about abuse is brutally enforced. We are living in the Panopticon. We police one another. Or we cower under our blankets.
Meanwhile, greater and greater sums are poured into the militarization of police. Police are not trained to protect, but to punish. And before you leap in to say “Not All Cops” or “Not Me” I want to remind you that we have to think in more sophisticated ways. We have to learn to see the systems. THESE SYSTEMS ARE CAUSING GREAT HARM.
Some of the heavily armed police in Ferguson Missouri called Mike Brown’s mourners “animals”.
To me, the responses are the same.
We’ve forgotten we can love one another. We’ve forgotten that we, too, are outsiders.
We’ve forgotten, also, story after story in our mythologies about Gods showing up in disguise, about the importance of honor, and hearth right, and hospitality.
Some of us preach the tenet of “Harm None” when that is impossible to do. So we just don’t. Others of us uphold the tenet of “Take Care of Our Tribe.” I would suggest instead, that we support a tenet of “Reduce Suffering Whenever Possible” Or decide to practice: “Striving to Increase Strength and Compassion.”
There are many ways to act upon these tenets: Talk to our mayor about not wanting militarized police. Greet our neighbors with the message that we don’t want to target young black men anymore. Organize against mass incarceration. Tell our families that we need to help deal with the aftermath of the giant mess we’ve collectively created in Nicaragua, and El Salvador, Syria, and Palestine… Plant a community garden with people who may be a different class, or color, or religion. Break bread. Share stories.
Look at all the ways in which we have simply refused to look before.
Be they close or far away, let the fires that burn in cities shine a light into our darkness, allowing us to see one another.
And then hold out our hands.
We must do this. We must. Or our souls will continue to harden and slowly crack. The rifts between us will widen, and then swallow us all whole.
Our Gods sometimes come to us in disguise. We need to expect that they may be anywhere. And whether or not the people we encounter turn out to be Gods, we must remember this: they are also human beings.
Just like us.
Update August 18th, 2014
Solar Cross sent $325 to RAICES in South Texas to help with legal costs. Children are still seeking homes in various communities throughout the US. We thank Adam, Elizabeth, Lunacy, Misha, Tony, River, Ellen, Kelly and Christine for their donations.
We have closed our campaign but you may still donate directly to RAICES here: RAICES donations
The situation in Ferguson MO has grown worse, instead of better.
I sent a donation to buy antacid (to neutralize tear gas) to Ferguson via this wish list: http://t.co/DHqmFSrnAF
Another place to donate that has been vetted is: http://www.gofundme.com/supplies4ferguson
Here is a curated list of people in Ferguson – I have not vetted them:
From August 13th, 2014
#NMOS14: Solar Cross will also be sitting in silent meditation during tomorrow’s vigil at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza starting at 4pm. Vigils for Mike Brown and all of those killed by police are happening throughout the US. We encourage you to join us wherever you may be. The National Moment of Silence is at 4:20 pacific/7:20 eastern. Check Facebook or Twitter for #NMOS14 and a town or city near you. Wear a red armband if you can.
Border Children: Solar Cross Temple is still taking donations to help the Border Children. Send via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line “For Border Children.” We thank Adam, Elizabeth, Lunacy Project, Misha, Tony, River, and Ellen for their donations so far.
Study Group: You are invited to join the New Jim Crow study group on mass incarceration at any time. The conversations have been challenging and deep.
My favorite pieces on Ferguson and the killing of Mike Brown: