After the past couple of weeks, I just don’t know what to say. I know that I am supposed to have some words. I should be helping other white folks learn to recognize and name the ways that the habits of whiteness have been inculcated in us without our recognition. Or I could engage on social media in ways that seek to bring light and healing. There are sermons and articles to be written, rallies to be planned, meetings to be strategized.
The words were beginning to form, but then I watched live from Cleveland last week. At first it all seemed laughable — so many salty tears being cried over a world that is dying away. The spectacle of it all — the rage, the inanity, the ugliness — was interesting in the way a car crash is interesting. But halfway through the final speech, the sadness hit me again. It may be that the world of supremacist structures and behavior is dying away, but it is not going gently, or without a fight. This is not a hospice care scenario. It is a wounded dragon willing to burn everything in sight on its way out.
At the same time in Cleveland, in a part of town ignored by every political party, Samaria Rice wakes up every day. Her son, 12-year-old Tamir, was killed there more than a year and a half ago now. A police officer shot him within two seconds of pulling up on him. It was determined a year later that no person was responsible for the child’s death. He just died, for reasons that are apparently inexplicable by law.
Marches, meetings, movements. Nothing made a difference. Justice was delayed, then denied, which is the same thing. Last week from Cleveland, Samaria Rice offered these words: “Don’t forget …. You see all these protests. That’s good. You see this whole movement. That’s good …. But underneath it all there’s somebody like me with a dead son.”
If that last sentence does not make you want to throw up, you may want to check your pulse. Or find the defibrillators for your conscience.
There are too many ash heaps and not enough time to sit on them. The news cycle runs and runs and the body count piles up. One new hashtag reveals another to be mourned. Lament needs time to ferment. But there is no time — my neighbor could be next. And even if it is not my neighbor, it will still be someone’s daughter or son.
Lament is truthful speech that names the fact that some of us are losing our sons and some of us are losing our souls and none of us can be whole until we change. Lament challenges authority, both of the heavenly throne and of earthly principalities. It cries out, as did the people of Israel in their captivity, and refuses to be silenced until it is recognized. The Psalmists wept themselves to sleep, soaking their beds and drowning in tears. Lament demands that both God and king make changes, and now.
There is another story we tell. A story of a son killed by officials of the state. Of a mother and her bottomless grief. Of a people who believe that the death of this particular son has overcome death in general. The story says that those who believe it will go on to do even greater things than the one who conquered death. Oh, but for the courage to believe that story.