Weight of the World: Processing Protests

The musical bamboo windchimes are whispering above my head. The sun on the front porch is warming up my toes as the house cooled over night and I was getting a bit chilly. The hum of a neighbor’s lawn mower simmers in the distance as the birds chatter and sing in the trees. Pandemic puppy stretches happily in the grass and keeps an eye on the bees.

Seems so peaceful. Seems like it should be so peaceful. But my heart is not at rest. My heart can’t rest while acknowledging the incredible privilege to live in this community with perfect little streets, well-cut grass and quiet that is enough to hear the wind rustle the trees.

Last night the air was filled with noise. The helicopters roared overhead. I knew where they were going. Downtown to watch over the rioting. Downtown where people marched in solidarity and peace to lift their voices and plead for equality as human beings. Downtown where agitators disrupted that peace and created havoc and destruction. Downtown filled with hurt and pain.

I struggle to read and understand. I gather up information as quickly as I can. I watch videos and read the news stories. I rapidly try to process what’s going on around me. Shortly after midnight, my 14-year-old bursts into my room. My lights are off, but he doesn’t care. “What’s going on downtown?” he asks. “Look at these videos of what’s happening right now in Pittsburgh. It’s chaos and violence. What’s going on with 2020?”

“Coronavirus was bad enough,” he says, “And now we have this.” I try to help him understand. Black lives matter. And all lives can’t matter until every human receives dignity and respect. But so many are scared and threatened by this possibility that another peaceful demonstration was taken over by white people with their own agenda. They are not allies. They do not care about equality and justice.

Super Tall Guy is wrestling this. He’s trying to find his way – posting comments on social media and grappling with the responses. He’s tossing out memes and slogans that he hears and learning from reactions. He’s sitting at his Xbox playing Fortnite while chattering with his friends. The conversation floats seamlessly between razzing one another for lack of skill in the game to commenting on the videos of rioting they are watching on their phones simultaneously. They struggle to work through this. They are trying to make sense of their world. But it is currently senseless.

And he is not there yet with his understanding of the magnitude of the issues. He sees the world from his whiteness because that’s what he knows. He is shielded from a lot of the injustices, yet experiences smaller aggression. I offer my words to him. I offer my life as a witness to him. I offer my opinions. But he is being shaped by a larger culture that I am swimming against and speak a small voice into.

After he ambled back to his room and continued engaging his cousins and buddies, I lay in bed thinking how much more simple parenting was when my kids were young. More simple before they had immediate access to the news, many times before I was even aware of the current events. More simple when it was just my brain trying to make sense of the world. Now I try to translate it for my boys. Translate injustice and oppression. Translate pain and violence. Translate the risk to them because of their skin color. I lay with the weight heavy upon my heart. I lay knowing that too many can’t breathe in this world today.

I can’t breathe, the world cries out.

I can’t breathe, the scariest of all feelings.

I can’t breathe, the cries of the oppressed and tortured.

I can’t breathe when greed and power shape actions

I can’t breathe when leaders incite violence

I can’t breathe when lives are lost

I can’t breathe if my brothers and sisters can’t breathe.

Want to do something? I do. So I read more, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s op-ed (“What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice”) and ordered “How to be an Antiracist.” I pray more. I talk more. I struggle more. I wonder more about how to shape the boys.

I can’t let the peace of my quiet and my community lull me into ignoring the struggle of the communities around me. Talk to me. Challenge me. Join me.

Why It Matters: I Choose Love

I’m not just going to get over it. It matters to me.

I didn’t sleep Tuesday night. I lay in bed checking the electoral count every 5 minutes. When the Associated Press called it, fireworks went off in my neighborhood. For the first time in a long time, I felt fear in my heart. Gunshots in the neighborhood a few weeks ago did not even compare to this fear. Fireworks to celebrate the election of a man who for over a year has publicly spewed words of hatred and anger, racism and sexism, disrespect and disregard for thousands upon thousands of people, this act of celebration pierced my heart.

In the morning, my eldest son woke up. Having followed the election from the periphery, he knew that Trump was unkind, but he certainly didn’t know the depth of it all. When his eyes opened, I said, “Son, Trump was chosen.” “Oh, okay,” he replied. I said, “No, son, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was just elected our president.”

“Oh, that’s bad. Very bad.”

This is not about taking “sides.” This is not about policies and politics. This is about choosing dignity and who will represent Americans to its own citizens and to the face of the world. #notmypresident is the cry that this man does not represent the feelings and passions of so many people. And I cannot tolerate disrespect and violence against my children, my family, my friends and my fellow humans.

I can not tolerate that my 7-year-old scribbled this note and tried to hide it in his room one night this week. When I asked him about it, he replied, “Because I am stupid.” And the pain touches me and I wonder where he is hearing these words that pierce his soul.nate-name

As I lay there into the early morning hours of Wednesday, the words below formed in my heart and I jotted them down. This morning (Sunday), I asked my ten-year-old to write the second half of the poem and handed him my computer.

Listen to his voice. This is why it matters to me.

When you walk in white skin
You stride through the world
Open doors and shake hands,
Look in people’s eyes with confidence.
When you walk in white skin
You feel safe, respected, untouchable
Assuming that you have the right to what you want.
When you walk in white skin
You say “I am not racist, I don’t even notice the color of skin,”
Because your eye has already seen the flesh upon your arms and it is content.

When you walk in white skin
You must force yourself to consider a walk in the shoes of another….

For….

When you walk in black skin…

Kids pick on me!
“Your black and I am white so you listen to me” they say.
Someone punched me in the stomach!
Sometimes it bothers me
Sometimes I feel bad inside
Sometimes it makes me get mad
Sometimes it makes me get annoyed
Sometimes it makes me get angry
Sometimes I am lonely.

THE END

 

It’s not that I don’t accept a “change.” It’s that I won’t accept mistreatment of human beings who were created by and loved by the Almighty God. I will not accept evil.

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

It Matters to me.

love-quotes-darkness-cannot-drive-out-darkness-only-light-can-do-that-hate-cannot-drive-out-hate-only-love-can-do-that

I Choose Love.
On behalf of my boys of brown skin, I choose love.
On behalf of my family and friends, I choose love.
On behalf of everyone who is scared and hurting, I choose love.
On behalf of the oppressed, I choose love.
On behalf of you, I choose love.

 

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