Sunday, June 21, 2020

"It's impossible to be unarmed, when blackness is the weapon they see."

This haunting quote comes from the movie, The Hate U Give:  "It's impossible to be unarmed, when blackness is the weapon they see."  Painful.  Disturbing.  Deep.

Are you getting tired yet of this conversation?  Me too.  Want to talk about happier things?  Me too.


If I choose to move on and opt out of this conversation because I am tired, that is a privilege.   
Many more people are exhausted in the fight against racism, but cannot move on or opt out.  Their skin color forces the conversation on them whether they choose it or not, because interactions with others and the systems are built to perpetuate injustice around them.  

Imagine generations facing that exhaustion, from  great-grandparents down through great-grandchildren.  Forced to continue in the fight for justice, not because they choose to but because they cannot escape the racism that provokes the conversation again and again and again.

So while I can admit my own tiredness, I don't get to use that tiredness as an excuse to disengage if I am serious about entering this discussion.  There is something very important at stake.

I was reminded this week that rather than shaking my head at what I see from white police officers, I should remember that the same racist structures that they were raised in, I was also raised in.  The fact that I can't "see" or identify what is racist in me, should make me shudder.  Because it's impossible to be unscathed as a white person living in the US.

We resist being called "racist" and yet we benefit from a racist system.  I benefit every day.  Going out without fear, owning a house where I want, good education, children who are healthy, educated, with jobs, and no record of arrests or conviction.  While I could argue that these are markers of my own hard work, or my children's hard work, or general lack of criminal activity, I would be blind if I could not see how my skin color has contributed to my success or that of my family.  I do not fear for my life when pulled over by a police officer.  I am confident that I can enter almost any business establishment without being profiled, followed, or searched, as can my children.  I know that if anyone in my family were engaged in substance use, I could choose treatment before getting the police involved, thus avoiding any criminal charges.  Good education with good scholarships came for my children in part because their parents were well-educated and benefitted from social capital that has been built up while people of color had little or no access to that same social capital.

I benefit every day.  I benefit from systems that I did not ask for but impact my life every day.

I cannot opt out of this conversation.
I should not opt out of this conversation.

I shouldn't "opt" out because of this warning in Isaiah 10: 1-2

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

This should keep me up at night.  And find me looking for ways to stay in the conversation.

Think of the depth of those words:  It's impossible to be unarmed, when blackness is the weapon they see.  

We listen.  We learn. We lament.
We stay engaged.