Last weekend as I left the house for church, I slowed down because the boys at the end of our street were playing basketball.
They stood back as I passed, and a racial epithet – one my father used frequently through my childhood – leapt into my mind. Annoyed at myself, I pushed it away, thinking as I did so that the “boys” were actually young men. Thinking of them as young black men made me nervous, a white woman paranoia that I’ve learned to name as racism. Pushing THAT thought away, I thought of Ferguson, and felt a wash of shame and despair.
Then there was traffic, and my worry about being prepped to teach Sunday school, and my thoughts moved on, until Monday, when I walked into the ladies bathroom at work and heard an unexpected noise. It took me a long minute before I realized that the sound was a breast pump: a female co-worker in the wide stall at the end of the row was pumping her milk.
I’d been holding it together in my new job until that moment. It’s been three weeks since I left my daughter at home to work full-time. Her absence is a deep ache in my body. The first week I felt so disconnected, like I was in a dream living someone else’s life. That has faded, but I still have a strict two minute limit on tears.
But in that moment, it hit me hard: the ache for my daughter, and immediately on the heels of that, I thought of Mike Brown, of Mike’s mother, and all the people who love him. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod:
They are killing our children. Our children.
Heartbroken, I cried in the bathroom, letting the whirr and hiss of the pump cover my sobs. Eventually I stopped, splashed water on my face, readjusted my armor and went back to my desk. I need to keep this job.
On the drive home that night, I let myself think about them again: first my daughter, and then Mike. I remembered the bit I know of history, and it felt like this. I know where my people are, in that picture, I know whose side my ancestors are on. And I thought:
We are killing our children.
And in that moment, I was suddenly so F—ING FURIOUS I could barely drive.
Enough of your voice in my head, Father.
Enough of pushing away kneejerk paranoia and shame about feeling it.
Enough of there being nothing I can do.
Haven’t I learned, at least a little, that the way to meet shame is with courage and responsibility?
WE are killing our children and we had better well f—ing stop. RIGHT NOW.
What is my church doing about this? Who do I know in Missouri, do I know anyone, who could I call?
I let the fury carry me into plans and actions, and I wondered:
Why did it take me SO LONG? A week of reading the news on facebook, late at night after my daughter was finally tucked into bed, but none of it really penetrating, none of it connecting with my heart, moving me into action.
Maybe I’m preoccupied…new job, big transition. Maybe I’m desensitized…there have been so many deaths, not only from police violence but the war on Gaza’s children, the refugee children at our borders. And maybe it is uncomfortable and easier for me to act as if it isn’t my children, our children, who are being murdered.
This post is to help me remember to stay connected, to stay present, to not let change and privilege lull me into isolation.
How are you responding to the systemic racism of police violence? What helps you stay connected?