I’m deeply disturbed by the racial violence taking place in the US right now.
(and believe me, I'm not saying it's any better here in Canada)
This isn’t new. This pandemic, which has allowed many to “slow down and take stock” has become a living nightmare for others who don’t hold that privilege.
A black man is killed in the streets while others sit safe at home. Some are marching in masks while…others sit safe at home. I am not suggesting we stop physical distancing. I am saying that it's a privilege to be able to do so. We are doing what we've been told to do. We tend to do that. To follow the herd. Every now and then though, we have to look up to see where the herd is headed, to look around, to ask if anyone has been left behind, to notice who's being trampled. And when we see that, we need to say something. I'm going to say something here. I won't say it perfectly and I invite you to say something too. Help me do this better.
The situation facing the world today has turned up the heat and the intensity on pre-existing issues so many of us have chosen not to acknowledge or see. I’m talking about racism, inequality, sexism, poverty, domestic violence. Why is it that proportionally more African Americans are dying of COVID in hospitals than White Americans? The death rates are wildly disproportionate and this isn't coincidence. It is past time to address these inequities. Truthfully, I don't really know what to do. But the question I keep asking myself is, "how might I take action from a place of love?"
I’m reminded of a trip I took a long time ago with a group of nuns to an Indigenous community in Northern Alberta that was reeling from the impacts of unchecked oil sands development. We'd been invited by an elder in the community who was concerned about the injustice and environmental devastation she was seeing around her. We arrived in her kitchen, where she served us moose stew and pulled me back from her sink before I could drink the glass of contaminated tap water I’d poured for myself. We sat and spoke a long time. I listened. I heard. Before we left, we asked her what she needed, what she’d like us to do. She said, “Could you pray with us? Don’t forget about us.” I've never forgotten.
This experience showed me how important it is to do what the nuns called, “bearing witness”. To not look away in the face of injustice and atrocities.
|Steve Locke. Photo from: https://www.stevelocke.com
With what’s happening today, I come back to a post Steve Locke wrote in 2015 about being stopped by police during his lunch break between teaching college classes. He was told that he, “fit the description”, of someone who’d just committed a crime. Steve Locke is a black male, and approximately 160 pounds. Any other similarities end there. As police interrogated him, he noticed a black woman standing down the block watching. He notes thinking to himself, “Don't leave, sister. Please don't leave.” She didn’t. And after it was all over, she came over to make sure he was okay.
This touched me deeply. I still don't know what else to do right now. But for today, as I figure out my next steps, I'm bearing witness and listening to Steve Locke say, "Don't leave, sister. Please don't leave."
Brother, I won't.