“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”
While you’re at it God, can you remove some of the thorns on this path?
Can you lift our weary and hopeless hearts?
Can you strike down the things and the people that block the light over, and over again?
Can you give us sweet manna for the journey through this deserted wasteland, to nourish us, and clear the bitterness from our mouths?
Stop smugly crowing about the legal system being correct, even if you feel it’s only technically correct and not spiritually so.
Stop and listen to your neighbors, either next door or for many of us, not so far away as the crow flies on its way to guide yet another Black soul, or any soul that loves Black people enough to fight for them, to the next place, too early.
In the streets we don’t see the imaginary terror groups you have conjured out of weary people who just want to matter.
We see people weeping silently to themselves, quietly lamenting to each other and through their tiny digital megaphones, crying out to God for something to change.
We see a straight line between young white men killing with impunity in 2021 and young white men killing with impunity when my father was a child, and when my grandfather was a child, and back and back to the bloody water route that fed the sharks and ate the souls of European men who hadn’t quite figured out that they were white yet. Men who filled the hole left behind by their inhumanity with the imagined substance of whiteness.
Watch as more young men become bold and unafraid to kill people who threaten the imagined power of whiteness.
Watch as your representatives redraw the lines so your hollow scolding about voting is rendered meaningless.
Watch as we wearily raise our eyes and said “We told you.”
This verdict is not the story.
The thousands upon thousands jailed, bankrupted, and ruined over the mere accusation of property crimes is the story.
The police who we are told protect people, but on a good day protect property and on a bad day protect this imagined substance of whiteness are the story.
The women and others who defended themselves and were met with imprisonment if they were lucky and death at the hands of legally exonerated men are the story.
The 66 years of fragile democracy we have experienced in nearly 250 years of existence, and its eminent demise through gerrymandering, emboldening, and incrementalism by those who purport to save us is the story.
The country that has functioned in this way from the beginning is the story.
It probably won’t be big and bright and terrible enough for you to see it, neighbor, not from where you sit. I look from where I sit and if I wanted to, I could ignore much of it myself. I could pretend that none of these things are real, and do not affect me, and there’s a good chance I’d get away with it.
But one day, I’d forget myself, and I’d get indignant with an official whose salary is paid in part by my taxes. And I’d learn, as my friends have, as my cousins have, that they have very clear instructions that they do not work for me.
If I were lucky on that day, I would eventually make it home.
You’ll see it, neighbor, when the elections stop making a difference at all. When even the candidates you find distasteful sail to victory. When the statistics don’t change and race is still a strong predictor of outcomes.
And you’ll have to reason with yourself. You’ll wonder why those people can’t overcome adversity like you did. You’ll look at your legitimate slings and arrows, and think, “If I could make it, anybody could.” You’ll never see the thousand invisible hands that buoyed you, and watching someone drown in what looks like the same circumstance as you is just. . . distasteful and unfortunate.
You’ll say that either something is deeply wrong in our nation, or something is deeply wrong with those people.
I know which one you will choose. I’ve seen you choose it again and again.
I’ve seen you try, I grant. You demand proof. You want the hard evidence. And yet any evidence that draws on history, that points to things that are happening even now in our corporate, legal, and political systems, is never enough. And now, neighbor, your neighbors want to ban even that. They give factual history a dangerous sounding, elitist sounding name. And before you know it, a woman who is younger than my father, who marched into a school building as a child while angry people, some your age, some maybe your parents’ age, jeered and threw things, and who wrote a book about it finds her book on the ban list. You don’t think your children should hear this living woman’s story, because it might make them feel bad.
This God that we say we both serve told me to love you. This God did not qualify it. This God did not tell me, “love them unless they commit a crime.”, or “love them until they cheat at politics.”, or “love them until they kill someone you love.” This God told me to love you, neighbor.
So I’m going to once again love you enough to tell you the truth.
Frankly, though, it’s becoming harder for me to give a damn if you listen.
This God also told me to love myself, to see myself as something precious and worthy because I’m imbued with God’s image and spirit.
So goodbye, neighbor. I’ll see you out there.
Just keep your weapon holstered.
Keep your ready-to-call-the authorities voice holstered.
Keep your scolding and lack of empathy holstered.
Just wave, and move along, unless you’re ready to do something different and realize the shining bit of promise that’s embedded under all the dross, evil dreams, and evil deeds our society is built on.
While you eat your lotus and dream, neighbor, we will remember for you.
While you chase insubstantial crowns and wave ethereal scepters at all you survey, we will dream prophetic dreams for you.
We will survive this.
You’ll see how beautiful we are —
and be ashamed.