Ok, so I’m seeing and hearing a lot around the interwebs about why Black people are dwelling on the past, and why they don’t just get over it already.
I cringe whenever I hear words like that. I think every Black person who just spoke their every day experience of loss and fear and oppression cringes at the insensitivity and the pure cold nature that lies in those words.
I can’t claim to know fully the experience of Black people in the country of America. I can’t write for them or to them, I can’t tell Blacks when to just get over their oppression. I think it’s pretty ballsy, actually, for white people to do that to Black people, because it reeks of privilege.
It is also very anti-Christ.
I’ve heard those words myself whenever I speak about my experience as a survivor of domestic abuse. I can’t compare the two situations, but I can express how it feels when I have become vulnerable and brave enough to express my pain, and someone knocks my breath completely out by asking me why I don’t just get over it. It happened so long ago, they tell me.
Whenever I read the gospels, as different and unique as each one is, I never find that Jesus tells anyone to just get over it. There is tender compassion when he stops what he is doing, and demands the children come to him. There is a gentle listening when the woman touches his hem, and he asks who touched him. Who are you, and what are your needs? What is your suffering, my dear woman who braved the ridicule to show up? Jesus rebukes those who stand in his way. Jesus rebukes us for standing in the way.
There is one woman who put Jesus in his place – the Syro-Pheonician woman who reminded Jesus that if salvation was for all, and if healing was for all, then salvation and healing must even be for the ones who have been named dogs. Or thugs. Or hoodlums. Or the horrible n-word. She throws it in our face – hey, don’t be calling people that. Don’t be denying grace to ALL. And we are left to wonder, is this what God sounds like, when God refuses to see people as human? Does God stop viewing people as human, simply because of the color of their skin?
I see in Black people a courage and a vulnerability, even when expressed through riots and burning, right now. And I see some white people who dismiss them, who ask them just to protest peacefully – hey, why aren’t we making it so they don’t have to protest at all????? Don’t you hear the absurdity in that request? Haven’t you ever been so angry that you wanted to burn something down? No? Well then, consider yourself highly privileged, my friend.
And then, the most difficult words of all to hear, those that demand you just forget what happened, and here are your two choices: you can sit and bitch about it, or you can move on with your life and show them different.
Again, words of privilege and insensitivity. Words that cut like a knife. Oh, yeah, because it’s that easy to overcome the decades of housing markets that have been redlined so Black neighborhoods aren’t worth what white neighborhoods are. And oh yeah, because it’s easy to overcome your dad, your uncle, your brother, and your son, all carrying lifelong records of crimes they did not commit, or of crimes that were non-violent, but crimes that render them unemployable and unhouse-able for the rest of their lives. Sure, that is as easy to overcome.
What a gross over-simplification those comments are.
And I argue there is even a third option: we discuss honestly and painfully, so people are allowed to heal, and we continue speaking and advocating for others, so they can heal as well.
Black people are speaking their pain, my friends. Honest, raw, vulnerable pain that white people have caused. It is awful to hear. It is necessary to hear and to make safe spaces to hear.
Ah, safe spaces. That’s hard, isn’t it? White people don’t consider the spaces where Blacks speak, to be “safe.” White people see the labels on Black music, and perpetuate the warnings of Black neighborhoods, and carry a tradition of fear against the color Black. The only reason these fears exist is that being in those spaces makes white people painfully aware of the strange dichotomy that exists in our nation right now.
It’s as if America is a big family, and there are two kids – the white kids and the Black kids. And the Black kids are saying, gee this family is horribly dysfunctional for me. I can’t breathe. And the white kids are holding the mouths of the Black kids and saying what, it’s warm in here! It’s lovely in here! Just get up and move on! You can’t breathe? I can’t hear you! Look at how lovely it is in here! Look at all this wealth! Look at all these opportunities! Just get up! But the hand is still over the mouth.
Being survivors is difficult work. I am a survivor of my own micro-cosm of pain. Blacks are survivors of multi-generational oppression that has gone on for centuries now and continues to keep them locked in patterns of human behavior that mean their children are marked for life. No one can tell any person how to grieve, or how to heal, and simply pushing it off on Blacks completely erases the responsibilities of white people to assist. The white kids in my example have to actually recognize their hand is on the mouth. Their hand is on the mouth because they know if they release, they must share all the goodness, and they don’t want to share.
Jesus, give us ears to hear. And willing hands to turn around long enough to ask, who are you? What are your needs today?