This Friday is different. The mass murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have made it impossible this week for me to write about the kind of stuff that I usually talk about here. I can’t write about how motherhood is hard or how the laundry is holy or how watching my kids’ dancing in the sunshine is beautiful. When something so ugly is hanging over us, how can we ignore it? How can we pretend that our conversation should be business as usual? How can we tweet about sales on zulily? How can we turn our backs on the suffering of our brothers and sisters?
So today, I’m writing different. I recognize that this is tiny, small and insignificant. I recognize that even my ability to choose to do this is a sign of my own privilege and personal distance from other people’s pain. If I wasn’t setting the timer for five minutes and promising to stop after that time is up, I know I wouldn’t be writing anything at all. I’d be too overwhelmed by all the things I want to say and wish I could say and have no business saying. I’d write it all out, go back and edit it to death and then end up just deleting the whole thing, because this isn’t my pain. I know that. To pretend that I have any real right to speak into it is to ignore the problem. What difference does my voice make? What do I know about it? How does what I have to say make any tiny scratch on the surface of this?
The temptation to keep silent is not from God. I don’t know the answers. What I do know is that witnessing means something. Those of us with voices have a God-given responsibility to speak truth out loud… even if our voices shake.
This is my little truth.
Five-Minute Friday today is FEAR.
People say it’s unspeakable. They say it’s unthinkable. They say, “We are all Charleston.”
But it’s a lie.
It’s not unspeakable. It needs to be spoken.
It’s not unthinkable. We need to be thinking about it.
And we’re not all Charleston.
We want to feel better, so we say we understand. We say we “can’t imagine,” when in fact it’s just the opposite. We can imagine. We just don’t want to. So we call it terrorism. We call it mental illness. We call it anything we can to distance ourselves from it…from you.
I sit here, not really that far away, nationally speaking…in a town where Confederate flags still adorn bumpers and fly from statues and some people are probably still fighting that war in their heads (and saying that it isn’t about slavery, it’s about states’ rights, you know, because that’s what they say and their voices are the loudest ones so there). I sit here in my house, nursing my baby on a Thursday morning which happens to be my birthday, and I read headline after headline and tweet after tweet and I cry, because I know I can’t understand how you feel.
I only know how I feel…and how I feel is Safe. And that’s just the problem.
I am Safe, here in my house, nursing my white baby boy in my little white Southern town, knowing that my baby can grow up and wear a hoodie or eat Skittles walking down the street or shoot a toy gun or go to a pool party in whatever town he wants, and no one will call the police on him. No one will shoot him because he’s “threatening.” I’m not afraid for him. In the game we’re all playing, he’s holding all the cards. He’s a white boy. He’s got it made.
I can’t know how you feel…but I’m fairly sure that Safe isn’t it. How could you? When your children are under attack? When your young men are getting shot so often that it isn’t even news when it happens? When you can’t even go inside your church on a random Wednesday night to prayer meeting without worrying that someone might decide to kill you? And when all the loudest voices just keep saying that these things aren’t related or aren’t systemic or aren’t anything at all except somehow maybe just a little bit your fault?
When is it going to be enough? How many more people will have to die before we can admit that something is horribly, horribly wrong? You should not have to live in fear while I sit here, safe. And although it is weak and insufficient and doesn’t fix a single thing, I am sorry.
I am sorry this is happening AGAIN.
I honor your life, your child’s life, your neighbor’s life, your pain that is far beyond my small words.
I’m paying attention.
I have my eyes open, and I’m teaching my children.
I know it isn’t enough.
I know I can’t ever understand.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, save your children.