Ferguson and Patience for the Appalled.

Photo: Twitter, from a #NMOS14 protest in Washington, DC
Photo: Twitter, from a #NMOS14 protest in Washington, DC

Be patient with those of us who are appalled. We thought we had been striding toward some progress, thought our education and integrity, our intellect and analysis were meaningful. We studied history, believed we understood all the ways in which enslavement could impact advancement. We were repairing our middling credit, paying back student loans, electing more people of color into political office. And yes, black blood still flowed in the streets and yes, each week new images of bullets bloodying children and grandmothers gunned down flickered across the six o’clock news. But we had been told to hope, had been assured that it took audacity, but it could be done. Optimism could be sustained. And weren’t we seeing justice sometimes? Weren’t more black students graduating college? Weren’t more of our men hitching up their pants and wearing ties? Weren’t we finally — finally — being legislatively mandated to become our brother’s keeper?

Forgive us for retiring “We Shall Overcome” for a while. Our president was black, and his attorney general had been tasked with tending to what was left of systemic inequity.  We overcame! Or at the very least, circa 2008, we felt fairly capable of overcoming.

Yes, even when we couldn’t catch cabs. Yes, even when we were stopped and frisked. Yes, even when a black Harvard historian was accused of breaking and entering into his front door. That was resolved with a beer summit, wasn’t it? Ain’t we some overcomers?

Pardon us for reeling in the wake of this latest reminder that we are still psychically, politically, horrifically, oppressed.

We watched a child bake on the asphalt on a middle American town last weekend, while the cop who killed him fled without calling in the murder or staying on the scene. And while sitting on our seat’s edge waiting for accountability, we had to reckon with the protracted dawning that no immediate responsibility would be assigned, that none of the shooting officer’s higher-ups — from his police chief to his governor — would feel the need to reprimand or hold him wholly responsible.

And while we were still reeling, while we were yet aghast, either time stood still as Ferguson Police teleported back to 1963 or time sped forward and we were all dumped into a near-future dystopia or, likeliest still, today is no different than the day of Mike Brown’s murder. Today is moving at the same predictable clip as every day that came before it.

Maybe black progress has only existed within a political Petri dish. Maybe it was merely another of the many experiments this country has conducted on people of color. Maybe the reason it doesn’t matter than children are being scraped off the pavement like dogs and babies are being tear-gassed and the best and brightest of the black literati are begging for their lives while standing before the barrels of Ferguson Police guns is because the Petri dish was secretly shattered, the quantifiable results of black process subsequently classified.

We will never know how many years or dead bodies or exceptional achievements it takes to convince a white supremacist culture to acknowledge the other 2/5 of our humanity.

Excuse us, as this is not easy to accept. When you ask why and how we could be so surprised, we are thinking of Obama’s first inauguration. We are thinking of our parents’ mortgage payments. We are wistfully recalling the Cosbys and thinking about how Dwayne Wayne really did end up running Kenishiwa in the end. Dreams come true, dammit. We are hearing echoes of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price. We are tasting the water from every fountain where we’ve sipped, without having to bow our heads beneath a Coloreds Only sign. We are touching the bibles handed down from our great-grandparents gnarled hands to our smooth, desk-working ones. We are reciting the promises inside them. Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousnessBlessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 

You promised, we pray, as though we’ve been betrayed. You promised, we repeat, as though we may have been forsaken. But we’d forgotten that we are still walking and that the shadow of death may not look like a hospital bed at the end of a long, storied life, but instead like a city on lockdown, asphyxiating its citizens, imposing a curfew on all who seek justice, donning riot gear and rolling tanks simply to protect a police officer who murdered someone whose skin looked like our own.

(There is still time left, right, Lord? There’s still time, isn’t there, for You to redeem these dark times?)

Please. Please. Just be patient. We are making our way. But you must understand that it is hard, when we are cordoned on all sides by toxic clouds. Surely, you can empathize with how difficult it is to be clear-eyed while gagging on these cannisters of cover-ups.

16 responses to “Ferguson and Patience for the Appalled.”

  1. Heartbreaking, elegant. As someone who knocked on doors in Iowa in 2007/08, I felt this country was finally moving forward. And yet, here we are, in a horrible repeat of the past.

  2. Change is hard to see when you are so close to the heartbreak. I do see it. White, Brown, Black, Asian, Spanish, German, Swedish, all over the world, I see good people horrified at these events and the depths of racism they expose. Mass awareness is the first step to massive change.

  3. This is both infuriating & poetic, while being heartrendingly beautiful. Like a spoken word poem, your words landed on my chest, and will resonate with me for some time to come!

    Thanks for everything.

  4. Thank you for documenting your feelings during this heartbreaking time. Racism exists, there is no denying its prevalence within society. Hopefully, this event blasts eyes open and incites change. My heart hurts for those who cannot trust the government to keep them safe. Thank you for expressing your anger so eloquently. You write beautifully.

  5. This is absolutely terrible, that a single person can inflict this on you and countless others he will never meet by virtue of having a gun and a badge and caucasian skin. If I claimed to have any answers, I would be missing the point.

  6. Reblogged this on Wild Women Wisdom and commented:
    I will not silence my activism around these inequalities and abuses of civil rights. I recognize my privilege and take responsibility for raising my voice as result: WITH WISDOM, with rights, COME RESPONSIBILITIES.

  7. I can’t stop reading your words. Thank you for your voice. It is so beautiful. I’m so sorry and so sad (understatement, maybe?) that you have to use it to fight such evil injustice. We have to believe that there is still time for Jesus to redeem. He weeps with anger at this the way he wept with anger at the tomb of Lazarus, right? Come, Jesus. Come quickly.

  8. Until now, I have not been able to find the words to speak on #Ferguson and #MikeBrown. This hits home to me on so many levels. The BCPD murdered my 18yo brother citing he had a weapon and in reality it was his penis. He stopped in an alley to relieve himself and they said he look suspicious. My wish is justice for Mike, Eugene and all the other many black boys murdered by an agency whose suppose to protect and serve. It’s time for action and besides the looting and violence, I am in full support of the people of Ferguson. The time is now. Exscuse me if I’m still appalled and pissed.

    • Nikia,

      Thank *you* for using your voice to ensure that Eugene is always remembered as the vibrant, witty, charismatic, kind young man that he was. Sometimes, I think the best (maybe only) way to redeem to the justice that’s robbed when our unarmed family members are murdered is to remember them and to speak their name and to acknowledge everything that they were and celebrate who they were to us. ❤

      I love you.

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