It’s been a couple of weeks now and I’m still working out how I feel. I’m not simply angry, although anger is there. I’m tired too, but that’s not the feeling causing me the most distress. In my last post I wrote that I’m hurt, but even that now feels insufficeint. The news and and social media is exacerbating the problem, but like a train wreck, I can’t turn away. I’m drawn to the discussions, the posts and the news. I’m drawn to it because it’s happening and it’s happening all around me; it’s happening to me. I’m searching for something in it all that I can make sense of. And turning off, or blaming the media, either network or social, makes me feel like the child talking loud chibberish with his fingers in his ears, trying not to hear what he already knows. It’s also disingenuous. It’s escapism. There is an urgency in all of this that cannot be ignored. It demands my attention. It calls to me from within.
While I was loading the dishwasher, and turning the thoughts over in my head, some things began to fall into place. I’m an emotional mess, so this may change in a week. But for now this makes sense to me. What I feel is wounded. There is a deep and painful wound there. It’s an old wound, opened in me, even before me. It was opened during the middle passage; opened on the auction blocks; opened by the master’s whip and the hangman’s noose. It was infected by the southern pastor’s sermons. It was kept open at whites only fountains and restrooms; in the basement of a Birmingham church; in Medgar Evers’ driveway. It was opened as bombs fell on Tulsa and as Rosewood burned. Bull Connor turn hoses and dogs on the wounded, and the wound festered on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. The infection spread in the redlined slums of the inner city, when just across the tracks wealth was flowering.
I could go on, but the reasonable get the picture. While none of the things I’ve mentioned are my own personal wounds, because they happened just because of skin color, they are mine by blood, because I share the color. I feel them just the same. So when I witness George Floyd’s murder, the wound is opened. And while its clever and catchy to say that this is about sin and not about skin, this sin is the experience of our particular skin. To deny the particular skin of this sin is to miss the utter sinfulness of the sin.
As sad as it sounds, I had learned to live with the wound. Yet I find myself in pursuit of something nonetheless. And while I know I have reason to hope, there is still something I want. Something I have not been able to put my finger on. I know I want justice and I want reform and I’m willing, even now, to let the judicial process happen as it ought. But what I want seems more deeply personal than that, and in the most profound way, more important.
What I want is a for my white brothers and sisters in Christ to acknowledge the wounds that this nation has and continues to inflict on people of color. My expectations for those who know the Christ are so high that my wound is touched by the finger of my brother’s deflection and denial. My wound is touch when I see their posts or comments about the rioting and looting, and I visit their page and find no mention of Arbery, Cooper, or even Floyd. I feel a sharp pain, when my sister shares the now viral video of Candice Owens, as if they don’t know Floyd’s death was not a martyrdom but a catalyst. And I am crushed when my pulpit peers preach those sermons, covered with the scent of the old south, that declare the only answer is to wait until men’s hearts are changed by the Gospel, when they know their members don’t share the Gospel.
I am wounded and so are so many other people of color. I have felt the pain and have seen it in the eyes of others like me; I hear it in their tone; it’s beneath their anger. What do I want? I want my brothers and sisters to step into our pain; to join us there. I want you to weep with us as we weep, so that one day we can laugh together again. I want you to take your finger off my wound.