ONCE…I was concerned about a black boy who lay dead in the street for 4 hours after being murdered by a white police officer who was so clear about his authority to kill that he had no idea at the time that THIS time it’d be different. I was concerned but SILENT. Isolated. Worried about who was safe to talk to. Frustrated. (increasingly) Suffocated by the silence around me. Unsure about everything…what to do…what to say...how to help. Uneasy. Fraudulent-feeling. Carrying the weight of seemingly-impossible change alone. I was wilted by seeming conventional wisdom that surrounded me: “This is the way it’s always been. It’s a shame but what can be done. It’s complicated and beyond reach. You have to look at “both sides.” You can’t really believe that? That’s naïve. When you’re older you’ll change your mind. When you have more money you’ll think differently. When you have kids, you’ll think differently.”
NOW…I’m clear. Black Lives Matter. Racism is killing us all…but the death takes different forms. I’m unavoidably part of the problem. I’m a necessary part of the solution. I know that my words, actions, and influence matters. I know it’s not for me to say what’s good enough. I know it’s not for me to say when we’ve arrived or even what liberation looks like. I’m listening and learning and believing and following. I’m clear that the history I’ve inherited is woefully incomplete. Even what I think I know has layers and layers of complexity that are resonate and relevant to today. I’m also clear that history is happening now and that everyday decisions make differences.
I’m still plagued by the mental tape that carries the messages of ONCE UPON A TIME because that shit is hard to un-program.
The people in our region have grown a lot since August 9, 2014 but our systems of injustice prevail. It’s likely that tomorrow begins another steep and painful growth curve for our region. I wish it weren’t so. I wish our community wasn’t conditioned to expect injustice. But we are, and for good reason. It’s also likely that the pain of tomorrow and beyond will present opportunities for more people to consider whether they can tolerate this status quo any longer…whether this is the reality that they want to give to the children of our region...and whether the benefits they are given are worth the costs they endure themselves and exact from others.
If you find yourself feeling silenced, suffocated, uneasy, despairing and unsure of what to do or say, please reach out to me. I would love to talk to you. It took me 8 months after Michael Brown Jr’s killing to find my public voice. I’m not going anywhere. Reach out tomorrow or 2018 or beyond. It’s never to late to take a different approach and start working for what could be. We need you. True change will take most of us.