"We'll become in our lives what we do with our love. Those who are becoming love don't throw people off roofs; they lower people through them instead." - Bob Goff, an excerpt from his book Everyone Always.
I have been a believer in Christ since I was nine (9) years old. In my time with God I have done my best to follow Him and live according to His character. For a long while I thought that meant doing everything perfectly and presenting the most spotless and blameless example to the world - true purity. I could have never been more wrong. I believe the closer we get to Christ the more we are confronted with one of the most challenging aspects of living for God - loving our neighbor. What's powerful about a neighbor, as I was reminded by the recent sermon by Pastor Robert Madu entitled Living in the Tension, is that your neighbor really includes all. His message noted that the earth is the neighborhood of God. So how can we begin to love our neighbor? Especially the ones that don't understand us or who have hurt us? While public opinion on this issue dates back generations there is no greater example than God Himself - Jesus Christ.
I have been mulling over this passage even more since the instances of injustices against African Americans has recently gotten national attention. As a Black woman, how do I extend love to a racist? How can I love my fellow brother or sister in Christ that does not understand the depth of racism or who has dismissed its presence all together? Everything that I have been thinking and feeling since before the devastating mistreatment and tragic end of Kalief Browders' life to the recent murder of George Floyd came rising to the surface. The heavy weight of racial and social injustice began to cloud my peace and my joy. I've been searching to find the peace of God and have struggled to put on the shoes that completed the full armor of God in my life. As much as there is power in God's pursuit of us - it's even more penetrating when we turn around and seek Him out. This is a weight that is not mine to carry. God's bandwidth is extensively broader than my own.
Through tears, the Holy Spirit sweetly reminded me of my savior Jesus who, said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NLT). These words left His lips after his arms and legs were broken so they could nail Him to the cross. As He was propped up, bleeding and dying for the world to see, soldiers nearby gambled for His clothes using dice.
When I think about this passage and join it with the current conversation concerning race and injustice I can't help but to connect the dots. It was three days later that Christ rose from the dead to provide a pathway of salvation for you and me. His death signified God's justice for us all - no matter what I do in my life, sin can never separate me from the love of God. Our salvation is secured not by works but because of His shed blood on that cross. The most detrimental lie and deception in human history (Adam and Eve) brought upon the injustice of their decedents. We would pay for a sin we never committed - a separation from our Father, born into sin. Now here we have our heavenly Father who loved us so deeply that He gave His only begotten Son so that we can be reconciled with Him. He gave in the name of justice. You cannot separate justice from love. Justice itself is an act of love.
In many ways I had to check myself. Not in the sense that my calls for justice were inappropriate or wrong but I had to check and reflect upon the heart behind my call. Seeking justice cannot come at the expense of someone else. Meaning - my seeking what right and just for cannot produce injustice. When that happens, that is called revenge not love. That has never been my aim nor do my post imply this face but it's always good to evaluate. The call of Christ to love our neighbor as ourselves should include both - love for ourselves and love for our neighbor. Our call for justice must then also include justice for ourselves and justice for our neighbor.
Kalief Browder (pictured above): was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent three (3) years in Riker's Island jail awaiting trial. He spent two (2) of those years in solitary confinement. The case was never prosecuted and the case was eventually dropped. He committed suicide not long after his release.
What does this mean for our response to racist? How are we supposed to respond to people who purposefully deny that racism exists? It means that my call to love emboldens me to choose forgiveness. It means that I love myself enough to have boundaries and stand up for what is right. It means that I choose to use the strength (that I believe only comes from God) to pray that their minds and hearts would receive Christ. My belief in God dictates that the birth, death an resurrection of Christ was not just for my sin but for the sins of my enemy should they so choose to follow Him at some point in their life. Restoration and reconciliation are always possible with God.
Loving my neighbor and seeking justice also dictates that I take the time to be empathetic as Christ was with those around him who didn't quite understand. During His ministry, Jesus took the time to speak in parables to help people who wanted to understand but didn't. I am not talking about being empathetic to a brick wall. When someone does not want to understand it's clear. Save your energy and walk away. When you have people before you that are being humble and vulnerable by asking questions and seeking understanding we have to meet them half way.
God cares about justice just as much as I do and He has provided a resolve. I can't say I truly love my neighbor if I am not willing to seek justice for him/her. Seeking justice takes in many forms. It is done through prayer, fasting, empathy, compassion, teaching, listening, learning, sharing experiences and information, peaceful protesting, lobbying, sharing the truth with grace, etc. However God moves you in this season, follow His lead . He provided a road map with the life of Christ that we can all study and follow.
"Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday." - Elizabeth Nix
When I was 15 years old, I was introduced to Juneteenth by my beautiful sister and friend Alicia Watts (ne Carson). She orchestrated the first ever Juneteenth event I have attended. We celebrated our ancestry and delved deep into the origins of the emancipation of African American slaves in the 1800s. We discussed how, though the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863 - it really wasn't until the adoption of the 13th amendment in December of 1865 that all slaves were formally declared free. We discussed when slaves in Texas received the news of their emancipation two years after the declaration was signed.
It is important to understand the climate in Texas at that time. Since the discussion of emancipation began as early as 1861, Texas had become a safe haven for slave owners since the region itself was minimally involved in the onslaught of the civil war. Many saw Texas as a place where they can preserve slave labor.
While President Abraham Lincoln was sure to communicate that his objective for the Civil War was to preserve the union and not to free slaves - he ultimately issued the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 to free slaves in confederate states exclusively. In his own words in the Daily National Intelligence in August of 1862, Abraham Lincoln wrote, "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the union and is not either to save or destroy slavery." The Emancipation Proclamation was more of a war tactic that was aimed to disarm the strength of the south who heavily relied on slave labor to support their war efforts. This proclamation did not mean freedom for the nearly 4 million slaves who resided in the border states (states that had not seceded from the union): Missouri, Delaware, Kentucky, and Maryland. Some argue that West Virginia was also a border state. Upon it's release, the news had not made its way to many slaves. The failure to communicate was also exacerbated by slave owners who purposely hid the news. Texas was one of the regions that was left out of the emancipation conversation.
So, on June 19, 1865, when federal General Granger lead federal troops into Texas with this news it was cemented as a day of jubilee - to be celebrated annually. It marked the confirmation of answers for prayers prayed for generations. It also signified that this victory lead to the adaptation of what is would mean for African Americans to be free in a land that was instituted - up to that point- to include them in society as property and/or 3/5 of a person (The Three Fifths Compromise 1787). How would our nation adapt? The adoption of Jim Crow laws answered that question approximately twelve years later.
Since my first celebration of Juneteenth, I have always thought about the holiday but admittedly did not give it the attention it rightfully deserves. With today's climate, I am glad that a light is being shed on such an important occasion in our nations' history and that I can take the time to give more attention where it is due. If you have not celebrated it before or do not know about it, I invite you to learn more and join the celebration. What 2020 has taught us, more than anything, is that it is important to take a look at what we once called normal so that we can make some important changes to create something better - something new. Thank you for reading and being willing to take a collective look. God bless you.
Sources and Resources
"Arn't I A Woman." by Deborah Gray White (1999)
Also Check out Journey to Juneteenth by Tamara Carson:
A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner
The Stony Road by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
The Second Founding by Eric Foner
Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
Note: I did not use APA format to site my sources. I will come back and do so eventually. Thanks for being gracious.
Afterward the Lord asked Cain, "Where is your brother? Where is Abel?"
"I don't know," Cain responded, "Am I my brother's guardian?" - Genesis 4:9
I believe God is posing that question of us today. What will our answer be? Will we shrug our shoulders and respond as Cain did so briskly? While this post focuses on the impact of police brutality and racism against African Americans, this message is just as poignant and far reaching to all people in this world. This is about humanity.
Please note that I know we have amazing Police Officers serving on our behalf who risk their lives day in and day out. This post does not ignore their efforts but we must pay attention to a chronic problem occurring in our nation today. Furthermore, I am an advocate for properly arresting citizens if there is just cause. As Bishop T.D. Jakes recently suggested, no one should be accused, tried, convicted, and killed in the street. For those who argue that some of these victims committed crimes or resisted arrest, there are too many examples of Police Officers who have successfully arrested such individuals without killing them (e.g Dylan Roof, who was taken to Burger King after he was apprehended for killing nine (9) people during their bible study in Charleston, South Carolina.).
In addition, it gravely misses the point to try to justify the murder of these individuals by pointing out perceived character flaws, or previous bad decisions. I don' t know how many times I have heard someone say, "The autopsy shows that he did have meth (substitute any illegal substance) in his system at the time," or, "There are photos of him smoking weed the week prior." There is nothing anyone can point out that warrants a death sentence.
It is difficult for me to swallow the narrative that the racial tension was ignited by the brutal murder of George Floyd. In all actuality the unrest has been brewing for decades. Now that there is national attention on this issue, I invite you to take some time reviewing the names and stories below. I have only included a small amount but will be sharing more in weeks to come. The amount of African Americans who have been killed is actually overwhelming and each post can only include so much. As you read, if you think of more names I can include on this list please comment below. Also feel free to do your own research. The more information we can share the closer we get to honesty, acknowledgement and hopefully changed hearts, minds and perspectives.
Before you read. Do click on the following links to watch how a police officers appropriately arrest assailants without killing them. I pray it gives a context to this issue.
I hope these videos gives a context of the equality being requested.
(Disclaimer: I traced the images below from photographs. I do not own the rights to the photographs. I am an artist under the name Flash of Grace and I trace images as a part of my artwork. Also excuse any typos or grammatical errors. I am catching them as I go. Thank you for reading!).
Where is Rayshard Brooks?
On the evening of June 12, 2020, Rayshard Brooks, an American 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by one of several Atlanta Police Department officers investigating a report of a man asleep in a car. The police were called to the scene on Friday night because Mr. Brooks had fallen asleep in his car on the restaurant’s drive-through line. Mr. Brooks was awakened and given a sobriety test, which he failed. After two police officers had been on the scene for 27 minutes, much of that time talking with Mr. Brooks, one of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, attempted to handcuff him, leading to a struggle. The officers tried to stun Mr. Brooks with Tasers, and Mr. Brooks grabbed one of their Tasers and ran away, with Officer Rolfe in pursuit. Mr. Brooks turned at one point to fire the Taser back in Officer Rolfe’s direction; Officer Rolfe then pulled out his handgun and fired at Mr. Brooks three times as he was running away (Source: New York Times).
Where is George Floyd? Mr. Floyd was suspected of using counterfeit money at a local business. Officers stopped him and the situation soon turned to murder. Video of the incident shows Police Officer Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, as several other officers watched passively, without intervening, despite Floyd's cries of "I can't breathe."Floyd appears unresponsive for the last 2 minutes and 53 seconds of the footage. Floyd died on the scene. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner released a new autopsy report Monday, ruling George Floyd's death was a homicide. The office said Floyd's heart and lungs stopped functioning "while being restrained" by law enforcement officers (Source: NPR).
Where is Ahmaud Arbery? In the afternoon on 23 February, 2020, Mr Arbery was out for a jog in the coastal city of Brunswick. At one point, he entered the Satilla Shores neighborhood. A neighbourhood resident, Gregory McMichael, told police he believed Mr Arbery resembled the suspect in a series of local break-ins. Police have said no reports were filed regarding these alleged break-ins. Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, armed themselves with a pistol and a shotgun and pursued Mr. Arbery in a pickup truck through the neighbourhood. According to the elder Mr. McMichael, he and his son had said "stop, stop, we want to talk to you". He said Mr Arbery then attacked his son. Lawyers for Mr. Arbery's family have said the 25-year-old was unarmed. Three shots were fired and Mr. Arbery fell down on the street. (Source: BBC News)
Where is Breonna Taylor? Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT), was shot eight times when officers entered her apartment in Louisville on 13 March. They were executing a search warrant as part of a drugs investigation, but no drugs were found in the property. The lawsuit accuses the officers of wrongful death and excessive force. It was filed by Ms Taylor's family last month and says the officers were not looking for her or her partner - but for an unrelated suspect who was already in custody and did not live in the apartment complex. On Thursday, Louisville's city council voted unanimously, 26-0, in favour of banning the controversial no-knock warrants in Breonna's name (Source: BBC News).
Where is Dreasjon "Sean" Reed? Dreasjon “Sean” Reed was shot and killed by Indianapolis police on May 6, 2020, in an incident that was captured on Reed’s Facebook Live. The 21-year-old Reed was involved in a police pursuit in the northwest of the city, when he parked his car near 62nd and Michigan and began to run. According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), the officer in pursuit tried to tase Reed and then shot him. Reed was pronounced dead at the scene. The live stream continues and it’s possible to hear someone, who is presumably an officer, say: “Oh he actually got one off?” and another presumed officer says, “looks like it’s gonna be a closed casket homie.” The video continues for a few moments until an officer approaches and turns it off (Source: Heavy.com).
Where is Atatiana Jefferson? On body camera footage of the incident, which shows Dean going into Jefferson's backyard, he cannot be heard identifying himself as a police officer. Police said Dean drew his gun after "perceiving a threat" although there was no sign he or the other responding officer knocked on the front door or announced their presence in the backyard. He fired through the window when Jefferson, who had been playing video games with her nephew, looked out after hearing noises. Aaron Dean, 35, faces a murder charge after police said he shot Atatiana Jefferson, 28, through the back window of her home around 2:30 a.m. Oct. 12 after responding to a call about an open front door (Source: USA Today).
Where is Botham Jean? On September 6, 2018, Botham Jean, an accountant at the international auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, is in his apartment eating ice cream when Guyger, who has just capped off a 13 1/2-hour shift as a Dallas police officer by helping a SWAT team arrest three suspected robbers, enters through his unlocked door and fatally shoots him in the chest after mistaking him for a burglar. Moments after the shooting, Guyger realizes she is in the wrong apartment. She is later convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison (Source: ABC News).
Where is Antwon Rose Jr.? Authorities said 17-year-old Antwon Rose was shot after bolting from a car during a June 2018 traffic stop. Ex-officer Michael Rosfeld, who said he thought Rose or another suspect had a gun pointed at him, was acquitted of homicide in March. Rose was unarmed but had a gun clip in his pocket. Protests followed both shooting and verdict. The federal civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of Antwon Rose has been settled for $2 million, a newspaper reported. (Source: Associated Press News)
Where is Mike Brown? Darren Wilson, who was in a patrol vehicle, initially stopped Brown for jaywalking, because he and a friend were walking in the middle of Canfield Drive, a quiet street located off busy West Florissant Avenue. Brown was not armed. Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, and police officials agree that Wilson got out of the car and that he and Brown had a physical struggle, although which of them started it is at issue. Police say that when Wilson got out of his SUV, Brown tried to shove him back into the vehicle and reached for the officer’s gun, prompting the first shots. Johnson said that after telling the teens to get on the sidewalk, Wilson started to drive away, then reversed his vehicle and struck Brown with the SUV’s door. He said the officer then got out of the car, struggled with Brown and began to shoot. Brown was shot at least 6 times and died in the street. His body laid in the street for hours after the incident (Sources: LA Times; New York Times).
Where is Trayvon Martin? Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was returning from a convenience store when he was noticed by Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer of German and Peruvian ancestry. Zimmerman contacted the non-emergency line of the Sanford Police Department, mentioned that there had been burglaries in the neighborhood, and told the dispatcher that he had observed “a real suspicious guy” who was “walking around, looking about.” Zimmerman also described Martin as someone “up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.” The dispatcher communicated to Zimmerman that the police did not need him to follow Martin, but Zimmerman, nevertheless, left his vehicle. He later said he had done so in order to ascertain his location by taking a closer look at a street sign. A violent confrontation ensued, and Zimmerman fired his weapon at Martin at close range, causing Martin’s death (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica).
Where is Tamir Rice? It began with a swap: one boy’s cellphone for another’s replica of a Colt pistol.
One of the boys went to play in a nearby park, striking poses with the lifelike, airsoft-style gun, which fired plastic pellets. He threw a snowball, settled down at a picnic table and flopped his head onto his arms in a perfect assertion of preteen ennui, a grainy security video shows.
Then, with the gun tucked away, he walked to the edge of the gazebo. He might have been wandering aimlessly, or he might have been attracted by the sight of a squad car barreling across the lawn.
Seconds later, the boy lay dying from a police officer’s bullet. “Shots fired, male down,” one of the officers in the car called across his radio. “Black male, maybe 20, black revolver, black handgun by him. Send E.M.S. this way, and a roadblock.” But the boy, Tamir Rice, was only 12 (Source: New York Times).
Where is Sandra Bland? In just three days, Sandra Bland went from detained to deceased.On July 10, 2015, the 28-year-old was arrested during a traffic stop for assaulting a public servant. That following Monday, Bland was found dead in her Waller County, Texas, cell. The Harris County medical examiner ruled her death a suicide by hanging -- a finding her family is fighting. Several years later new video sparked more questions.
Trooper Encinia initially stopped her near the campus of Prairie View A&M University – her alma mater – for failing to signal a lane change.
“Get out of the car! I will light you up. Get out!’’ he yells when Bland doesn’t comply, pulling out his Taser and pointing it at her.
After Bland comes out of the car, the heated exchange continues, with her wondering aloud why a failure to signal would yield such a harsh response. He then tells Bland to get off the phone.
“I’m not on the phone,’’ she responds. “I have a right to record. This is my property.’’
The recording ends when she follows his command to put the phone down. The newly release video contradicts the troopers story that he felt in fear for his life while attempting to detain Bland. (Source: USA Today).
Where is Eric Garner? On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner dies in a confrontation with Officer Pantaleo after the officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold. Police had suspected Garner of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on the street on New York City’s Staten Island. The confrontation is caught on amateur video, including Garner’s words “I can’t breathe,” which become a rallying cry among protesters. The city medical examiner’s office rules Garner’s death a homicide caused by neck compressions from a chokehold. (Source: USA Today).
Where is Jordan Edwards? On the night of 29 April 2017, police responded to reports of underage drinking at a house party in the suburb Balch Springs. Officers were inside the home trying to find the owner when they heard outside what they believed to be gunshots, causing panic at the home as people fled.
According to police documents, Oliver's partner, Tyler Gross, attempted to stop a car full of teenagers leaving the party. He walked up to the passenger door of the car and punched the window, breaking it. Oliver then fired several times into the car - shooting Jordan, who was in the front passenger seat, in the back of the head. Oliver said he believed the car was reversing "aggressively" towards his partner. However, bodycam footage showed that the car was actually driving away from police when the shots were fired (Source: BBC News).
Where is Sean Bell? The shooting took place after a stag party at a strip club in Queens, a few hours before Sean Bell, 23, was due to marry the mother of his two small daughters. He was struck in the neck and arm and was dead on arrival at hospital. The police claim to have overheard one of three men mention a gun, but no weapon was found. The officers on the scene fired a total of 50 bullets, but fewer than half hit the intended target, a car carrying the three men, despite being fired at close range. The rest sprayed nearby cars and buildings, as local residents leapt out of bed and huddled on the floor. One of the stray bullets shattered a window at a train station in the neighborhood, injuring two transport police officers with flying glass. (Source: The Guardian)
Where is Philando Castile? July 2016. Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last July, and the aftermath was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend. Mr Yanez says he feared for his life and Mr Castile did not follow orders. The 29-year-old police officer was found not guilty on charges of second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon for endangering the safety of Mr Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter, who were both in the car at the time.
He has since been fired from the police force.
The dashcam footage from Mr Yanez's patrol car, released by Ramsey County on Tuesday night, appeared to show a routine traffic stop. Mr Yanez was seen approaching Mr Castile's white sedan while another officer stood near the passenger's side.
He told Mr Castile he pulled him over because a brake light was out before he asked for his driver's licence and insurance.
Mr Castile handed him a piece of paper and said: "Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me."
"OK. Don't reach for it, then," Mr Yanez is heard saying while appearing to reach for his own weapon. "Don't pull it out."
Mr Yanez again repeated "don't pull it out" in a loud voice as he drew his own gun and fired inside the car multiple times. The officer ordered Ms Reynolds, who is heard screaming, not to move and began shouting expletives. After the shooting, the second officer escorted Ms Reynolds' daughter from the backseat of the vehicle. Ms Reynolds is heard explaining that her boyfriend was reaching for his ID, to which Mr Yanez replied: "I told him not to reach for it." The officer called for emergency responders and later is heard saying: "I don't know where the gun was." (Source: BBC News).
Where is Emantic Bradford Jr.?Hoover police mistakenly believed Bradford, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and was armed the night he was shot, was the suspect who opened fire in the mall, wounding an 18-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl.
Following the shooting, Hoover's mayor and police chief apologized to Bradford's family for identifying Bradford as the gunman who opened fire.
The officer who shot Bradford and his partner were on-duty at the mall and heard the gunfire erupt some 75 feet away from them, according to Marshall's report.
The two officers, according to the report, raced toward the gunfire and spotted Bradford who "held a firearm in a ready position." (Source: ABC News).
Where is Alton Sterling? On July 5, 2016, Police were called after reports of a man threatening people with a gun outside a shop.
Mobile video footage appeared to show two officers wrestling a man in a red shirt to the floor.
One of the officers pinned the man's arm to the floor with his knee and then appeared to pull out his gun and point it at the man.
A voice is heard shouting: "He's got a gun!" Shots ring out and the camera moves away. Mr Sterling, a father of five, died at the scene (Source: BBC News)
Everything that happened before and right after this moment remains a total blur. I just remember this ugly word that came hurling at me at about 100 miles per hour. I heard the word several times before but it was never directed at me personally until now. There is a version of a popular Christmas jingle that I heard as a child that reads, “Jingle Bells/Batman smells/Robin laid an egg/Batmobile lost its wheel/ and joker ran away hey/Jingle bells/Batman smells/Robin laid an egg/Grandma pulled the trigger/and short a n____r/ and Joker got away!” I do know several versions of this song originated in 1967, but this version made its way into my world abruptly. There were other songs and sayings with racist undertones all around that impacted me in a way that I did not quite know how to put into words. It was just a part of life.
On this particular day in 5th grade, my classmate (let’s call him Paul), who I was actually fond of, sat back loosely in his chair in the same disinterested position he displayed day in day out. The trouble maker of the class, he often found himself at the center of correction and discipline – rarely ever getting attention for his academic enthusiasm or prowess. I often felt bad for him. He seemed like a nice boy and we got along better than he did with many of our other classmates. The fact that he is white and I’m black never seemed to create any kind of dissonance between us until this faithful day. Our class was on the topic of American History. Again, I can’t remember exactly what happened that led up to this moment. I think somehow Paul and I got into a debate over some historical figure when he looked at me and said, “You N____r! “
The whole class sat paralyzed as the word reverberated back and forth across the room. I believe we had a substitute teacher that day. I don’t remember Paul getting corrected nor do I remember the teacher asking me if I was okay or addressing the issue to the entire class. I just remember the word. It was a punch in the gut though he never touched me. I didn’t know what to say until something in me felt the need to get back at him with something just as vile. I couldn’t think of anything to call him but a white h_nk_y. I spewed out the words as I burst into tears. Paul just looked at me un-amused and unsure of what to do with my comeback. We both sat there hurt and confused while the rest of the class moved on to the next lesson.
That was my first time being called that ugly word and I got a taste of how the word invokes one to respond with hate. I wasn’t proud of my response that day and I wasn’t sure why it was never addressed in class but it sat with me for a long while after that. Fast forward a short time later, my 5th grade class was still learning about American history. The day’s lesson discussed slavery in America. We were broken up into groups of four by our substitute teacher. Paul was in an adjacent group. Though we were not working together on this day, I felt the discomfort from our last encounter. As one of two black students in class it felt like there was a huge microscope pointed directly on my posture - as if people were waiting on me to respond to this topic. As we read about and discussed “punishments” heaped upon slaves who disobeyed their owner another classmate (let’s call him Samuel), looked at me and asked, “Did it hurt?”
I replied, “What do you mean?”
He continued, “When they tied you to a tree and whipped you.” I sat there in disbelief. It hurt in a way that words could not describe. I told him that it did not happen to me. He smirked, internally reveling in his “joke.” I sat there with my head in my hands and cried. When another classmate called out to our substitute teacher and informed him that I was crying he simply replied,
“She’ll be alright.”
The silence of my teachers only cemented their agreement with the actions of my classmates. Their non-response told me that they were okay with this language being used against me and when it happens I have to just take it, pick myself up and move on. I don’t even think I shared it with my parents when it happened. I kept it inside.
I have heard comments recently that racism is perpetuated by the mainstream media and that the black community has been deceived by the far left who is pushing a political agenda. I must say that racism is not a made up feeling. It’s not all in our heads. I did not get my ideas or understanding about racism from CNN or MSNBC. I have experienced it and as a nation we have systemically participated in its constructs as we have made our way through the inception of slavery on this soil in 1619, through the systematic establishment of segregation and Jim Crow in or around 1877 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just because some of the laws have changed does not mean the hearts of men have changed. It also does not mean that attitudes and mentalities have not passed down from generation to generation.
You may wonder – man this instance happened when she is a kid. She should be over this by now. Maybe you write me off as an injured black woman that needs to give it a rest. I won’t rest and I am not injured. I’m poised to share perspectives and truth – not so that I can heal. I shared one story but I have others. I must say that I don’t have a spirit of offense, rejection, or hatred. I have given these very instances to God and received prayer – even when I did not know I still needed it. I am sharing because some people would like to think that racism is no longer an issue. It is. If you dare to look around and ask questions, not just within your inner circle but to people who think and look different than you,I know you will find stories that you did not know still happen in this day and age. We are all responsible to discover more. Just like I am challenging people to seek and listen, those of us with stories must be willing to tell. It’s time to share and it’s time to listen.
Just like everyone else I am working to navigate my way through everything that has come to consume our world today. The onslaught of COVID-19 and social distancing has been an adjustment in and of itself. Then, the murder of George Floyd and the wide spread civil unrest that ensued has taken our hearts and emotions into a totally different realm.
Since the murder of George Floyd, I have spent days crying, hurt, angry and wondering how to respond. Ultimately, I landed at the feet of Jesus. What does God have to say about all of this? While God beautifully reminded me that racism and injustice grieve Him and are against the foundation of who He is - LOVE; He also impressed upon me how he responds to the shedding of innocent blood. The passage above, it was the innocent blood of Cain's brother Abel that called out to God and provoked Him to ask the question, "Where is your brother Abel?" Cain's reply is embedded in too many reactions I have heard over the years. As Americans, do we feel responsible to be able to answer to the whereabouts of our brothers and sisters. God is the creator of us all. When our fellow brother or sisters lie dead on the ground the problem does not rest with one individual but the collective. In the instances of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery , Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, (and many others like them), God is inquiring of us, "Where is your brother/sister ___________." What should our answer be?
So why am I doing this blog? I started this blog because God impressed it upon me to share the history of our people and answer the statement I have heard far too often when it comes to murder of black men/women due to police brutality and racism..., "I need more details," and, "We don't have all the information," or, "The media is not showing the whole story." There is one I heard recently that suggested that racism is being given to black people to manipulate, and control the political narrative. This is a place where I pray you will get the information you need, some sources to back it up but most of all I pray it induces empathy in inspiration to act in love. I want to inspire us to not just look at the data, the details, and the facts but to to be introspective. If I am to be my brother's keeper, I have to first start with my own heart and then move outward. This command extends beyond the injustices of Blacks in America. As a black woman, can I extend the same care and grace to my white and brown brothers and sisters? We must all be willing to take a hard look at ourselves so that we can be honest with God and make the necessary changes for our land and hearts to heal. It is the only way to come to the table and bridge the gap to reach understanding.
Christine Houston is a believer, wife, and mother of two amazing children. Writing has always been a form of expression where she feels at home. Now she is getting to integrate her faith and her love of history to bring a new spin to the current climate of our nation with the hope to bring understanding and bridge the gap created by racial divides