I’ve already cried twice this morning and it’s still early. It’s going to be one of those days, I think. The first thing that brought on tears was the 24-second Twitter clip of violinists in New York playing Amazing Grace to honor Elijah McClain, the young Black man who was killed in Aurora, CO last year when he went to buy some iced tea for a family member. The poignancy of the music was amped up by the knowledge that the counterpart vigil in Aurora was met with a state-led crackdown on peaceful protestors that drowned out and basically swamped the music there. Parallel vigils in other parts of the country went forward unmolested, but how telling that the one in the place where McClain was killed was met with the same kind of reactive, excessive response.
On my walk this morning I saw a new BLM-inspired sign and it reads:
“Black Lives > White Feelings”
Amen and amen.
I’ll get to the other teary thing in a minute, but I want to first tell you that for the last couple of weeks I’ve been working my way through the suggested educational materials on the Justice in June website (https://justiceinjune.org/) that was featured in the WP on Juneteenth. The materials were pulled together by two college students, Bryanna Wallace and Autumn Gupta, in consultation with various scholars, with the aim of educating allies on race, privilege, and antiracism. There’s a great mix of older and newer podcasts, TED talks, and articles along with suggestions and supports for targeted activism.
The TED talk I listened to last night is by Verna Meyers and is entitled “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Towards Them.” In it, Meyers beautifully lays out how we’ve all been steeped in the racist belief system that is America wherein most of us learned to fear Black men even as most of us are largely unaware (still) of this basic dynamic and remain willfully ignorant of its implications (I’m adding this last clause). She then suggests that we acknowledge these dynamics and that we make conscious efforts to counter them – that we look at pictures of Black boys and men, that we get to know Black boys and men – so we can break down the biases that poison so many of us and that have provided permission for reactive, excessive responses to irrational fears that so often end in Black boy’s and men’s deaths.
“Black Lives > White Feelings”
The second thing that got me choked up this morning was reading about Kenneth Felts, who, at age 90, decided it was time to come out and be his true, gay self. OMG – I’m so happy for him. And I’m so happy for his family and his friends and I’m so happy for other gay people who need this sort of inspiration and encouragement. It’s totally awesome when people feel supported around who they are from the get-go and don’t grow up needing to hide who they are to be safe – we still need way more of these kinds of almost non-stories. But for now, we really need to celebrate when people like Mr. Felts work up the courage to reject the bullshit stories that they’ll go to hell if they’re gay and to take a leap of faith that even if some people in their social network can’t handle it, most can and that there are more connections to be made. It sounds like things have worked out very well for Mr. Felts in that his peeps are happy for him and he’s joined an online social group for gay elders. Plus, he has a very colorful new rainbow-oriented wardrobe.
May we be safe to honor those whose lives were cut short.
May we be willing to make tons of space for people to be themselves.
May we trust that the social fabric can stretch and morph without tearing if we treat one another with respect.
May those of us who need to, accept that we need to get over ourselves and our feelings.