“History has it’s eyes on you” (Hamilton)
A few days after the hamster’s untimely demise, as the usual group of neighbor boys milled around the front yard jumping BMX bikes over ramps and turning tricks on scooters, one boy commented to Mr. Ornery, “Sorry to hear about your hamster.” I was just returning from walking the dogs and as I neared Mr. Ornery sitting in the grass, he reached over to pet puppy Moka. “Thanks,” he replied. “The black dog did it because blacks kill more than white people.”
You might have heard my head explode depending on your location. The whole neighborhood heard me yell at my son and march him inside where he sat on the bottom step as I continued to rail loudly at him. Doors and windows wide open, the other kids began to sheepishly clean up the yard and head for home.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I didn’t know what I said.”
And he’s right. He’s eleven and he’s learning. And the world around him is feeding him lies and teaching him to view white as the norm and other shades of color as deviations from the norm. But I have little tolerance anymore for what the world is feeding into my children. For most of my life, I thought I was pretty awesome and aware and sensitive about race and doing things generally right. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know until the unrest this summer helped me identify some of my ignorance and defensiveness. I started reading (White Fragility is hitting me in the soul) and realized it was on me to choose to learn more and do better.
So when #45 stood on the debate stage a few weeks ago and at the moment he asked to strongly condemn white supremacy, he instead asked a white extremist group to “Stand back and stand by,” I wept. Seeing in that moment the pain that this man continues to inflict upon people of color and weeping in that moment that he would dare spur on people who would have no qualms about attacking my three brown-skinned sons. I lay in bed for hours fearful for what is to come in this country. I knew the power of those words. A call to continued racism and discrimination, to violence and use of force, to asserting power and dominance.
Many years ago, a friend passed along some wisdom. Do not get caught up or frustrated or sad about the little things of life, but focus instead on what matters to God – “to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). Cry over what matters.
I cry because the Earth is crying.
I cry because the people are crying.
I cry because the oppressed are crying.
I ache for the plight of the poor as millions more Americans fall into poverty while the millionaires in Congress avoid economic relief packages. My patients that I see every week are struggling and stressed and running out of resources.
I cry over senseless killings of people of color and the injustice that follows. I honor those in law enforcement who balance a difficult job without the right resources and training and improvements can be made. But it is time to recognize that Black Lives Matter means that at this moment in our history, it’s time to work towards true acceptance and dignity and honor and equal resources and opportunities for all people of color. That is why people march. Because this is our moment. To be the change.
I weep as I see infants separated from their parents knowing the stress from that trauma writes itself into the rest of their lives. Adverse childhood experiences leave lasting consequences. Thus, I cry for the lack of compassion in matters of immigration that leads to pain and trauma rather than working on policy changes and solutions.
And I cry for the families of 217,000 people (and counting) who died by a virus knowing that more could have been done to save people. Grandparents, parents and so many more would still be alive had this country received clear leadership and strategy out of the White House rather than mockery, dismissal and pressuring experts to change their guidance. Our leaders have “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy” (NEJM, 2020) and too many people have died.
And I continue to cry as the current president continues to incite violence and domestic terrorism and unease about democracy. The division, the anger, the hate tears at my soul and I find myself in a perpetual state of stress as we press on toward the election.
In all this stress and all this pain that I witness, I mostly cry as I struggle to figure out how to relate to family and friends who do not “see” the ways that the president, in words and actions, jeopardizes the very life and future of my family and my precious sons. In 2020, it is not about politics or taking “sides,” it is about love and humanity and decency. It is about protecting the lives of my boys and so many other people.
Depending on which version of the Bible one is reading, Isaiah 1:17 calls on us to “defend the oppressed” or “rebuke the oppressor” (NIV vs. New King James). I am committed to spending my days doing both. This week I took the biggest step I could by casting my ballot to vote out the evil that plagues us and begin to shape a more unified and peaceful society. I sent letters and postcards to encourage others to take a stand against power and greed and white superiority.
I cry because it matters.
Take my tears, Lord, and guide my steps to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly.