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We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

While it is not my habit to post what some people would call “overtly political” material, tonight is different.

Tonight is also different in that I wonder whether I should post at all, or simply refer you to the blogs of people of color who are so thoughtfully writing, speaking, and acting for racial justice. If it’s a choice tonight, if it’s a choice between reading me and reading them, read them.

But I also know that many of us in the “wisdom community,” whatever that means, insulate ourselves from political events. We do what’s called a spiritual bypass, and we look for ways to avoid the harsh realities of the world we live in.

I do not ever want to engage in spiritual bypass.

And so for me, tonight is different.

What is indictment?

While one justice official said “a prosecutor could get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich,” tonight showed that if that comment is true, ham sandwiches receive more respect and concern than dead young Black men and their families. The decision tonight was not to determine whether Darren Wilson was guilty of the murder of Michael brown, but rather whether to send Wilson to court.

Understand that—the decision was whether or not to have a trial. While most Grand Juries may indict those who come before them, it is rare to indict a police officer for using deadly force. There is a kind of legal deference in play when it comes to police.

Which means, given the realities of law enforcement in the United States, there is a legal bias against young Black and brown people.

My heart is heavy

I don’t want to be just another white person expressing her oh-so-important feelings. Then again, I think if anyone is to be moved to action on behalf of racial justice, they need to come to terms with the state of their heart. And so I do so here.

There was little hope of indictment tonight, and still my heart is heavy. My heart is heavy with disappointment, fear, and outrage.

Outrage.

Not because the Grand Jury did much other than I’d expect, but precisely because that is what one expects. Because the justice system is anything but—if you are Black or brown, police officers are cause for fear, not for a sense of security. Because justice, because hope, because Beloved Community will not—and cannot—come through the “justice” system in the United States.

My heart is heavy because I have friends—Black, white, and mixed-race couples—who have Black children. What does it mean to raise young Black people in this country, a country where, as Adam Dyer said, “The conflict between Black and white has become a global disgrace.”

My heart is heavy because I am white and so I carry a privilege I have not earned and that I’m still not sure how to put to best use. I cannot shrug it off—it is with me and it is mine. It is not cause for guilt, but rather for accountability. It is cause for solidarity, for support of leaders of color, sometimes cause for speaking up and sometimes cause for keeping silent.

My heart is heavy because I know that, despite what President Obama said tonight, most whites in this country do not want to be partners with people of color in the struggle for justice. While I respect the office and the man, his statement that the “vast majority” of people want to work together is frank bullshit. I have found his speeches of the last day profoundly disappointing.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest

So tonight my heart is heavy. “Joy comes in the morning.” Perhaps….but it is a long road toward justice, and as Bernice Johnson-Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock sing, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

Moreover, we who believe in freedom who are white must remember that the struggle is something we can put down and take up again at will. I do not carry this particular struggle in my bones, in my blood, in my skin. I am not a target of racial profiling that puts my life at risk.

So while I, as a white woman who cares about racial and other forms of justice, may pat myself on the back for my allyship, I must always remember that racism, its expressions and effects, are with my friends of color every day of your lives.

There is more to say, and much more about which to listen, so I’ll close now with this reminder:

‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons.”

Amen.

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