We were in a barren city. The storms kept hitting. Nobody knew when they were coming next. Blackened sky. Disastrous rain. Wailing sirens. Police officers, yelling orders into their PA systems - their voices blaring through the speakers. Debris flying. Them: “Hands up!” Us: “Don't shoot!” Them: “Hands up!” Us: “Don't shoot!” Them: “Hands up!” Us: “Don't shoot!” Over and over and over again. We ran into the stores and warehouses, hiding under retail carts and equipment made of iron that might keep us safe but not for certain. We maneuvered the industrial carts from one side of the space to the other to escape the bullets....but they wouldn't stop. They came for us. They came for our skin. The bullets sinking into our yellow and tearing holes through our black. We were hurting; broken on the inside, but brave on the outside. We were angry but we were together. The flag waved tattered and tired in the background, grayed by the smog. When the war on the foreground was over we would walk, looking for younger children that didn't belong to us - not because we were covetous but because they were our allies. They looked ivory as bone, helplessly washed in glistening shades of white by the hands of God our maker. Some were painted a dark red. Others were dipped in bright yellows and fine golds. Most of the children were polished in the prettiest brown and black tones; a stony trail of ebony by the wayside. We walked. Then we sped. Then we ran. Them: “Hands up!” Us: “Don't shoot!” Them: “Hands up!” Us: “Don't shoot!” Them: “Hands up!” Us: “Don't shoot!” Again, we sought for cover, trying our best to remember the “duck-and-cover” protocol from our lock-down drill days in grade school. We were adults on the inside who knew righteousness apart from injustice but we wore the bodies of fifth graders, and seventh graders, and eighth graders. We were us, but the us from our youths, staring each other in the eyes as if to scream, “fight for your life! It is our God given right to live!” Imagine that? A God given right. The upmost right that not a single white man had the right to strip away, but he did so in plain sight because he could. Their stark hands collected the muscle memory of the last lynchings; their craving for the next victim....insatiable. We fought for the right to breathe the same air as these white law enforcement officers. We were not privileged enough. To them, black or yellow meant filthy and unpardonable. They counted us as unworthy. We hid for the sake of preserving our right to bleed red. They saw us. We owned our anger. They opened fire. The color of our skin didn't inspire the crime; it was the crime. They raged, offended that we were still awake. They seethed for fear that we were not yet left for dead in pools of our own blood. They wanted us asleep forever. They were scared of us, threatened by a beauty that challenged their white privilege. They called our skin dominant so their society made us inferior. We became a part of it, having no choice but to play the role of the weaker vessel. How did I not know that this series was on repeat for over 400 years? Yet, the world remained quiet about our dread. Instead of defending us, they eyeballed our ascent into a Heaven that called us home too soon. Glory demanded us. We carry on, filling up the streets as if nothing ever happened; traveling on threadbare feet that were tired of amounting to the stereotype that “all minorities do is run.” They blame us for running but it's the only option they offer us. We run until we see Heavens gates swing wide, shadow-less and full of acceptance that our prior world ruled we didn't deserve. God waits on the other side to meet us and we grow nervous, buckling before His bigness. Were we ready all along? Did He count us as so from birth? Either way, He doesn't shun us. He doesn't know how to, so instead He bear hugs us. Deep in my soul, I can feel hundreds of thousands of God's children fling their eyes open from the same nightmare, all at once and in different time zones. They feel like my friends. One, by one, by one, we wake up with a disturbed kind of energy that sends elastic waves from the Earth's epicenter to its opposite poles. We sense that the racists could feel the aftermath of our torment. “Why can't the nightmares remain nightmares?” we ask rhetorically. Our voices echo from different bedrooms. We ache for dreams only to wonder if they are worth writing down or fighting for. The media tells us, that we might not ever survive to see our dreams. They don't tell us verbatim of course, but the reports all end on notes that shrill with dissonance and screech with injustice. For the first time at age 26, I am unsettled by my indigenous features, alarmed that I am a double minority, who can't scrub the color off of my skin. I am Latina. I am a yellow woman.
Dear Mr. Policeman You made my mom cry. She didn't know I was standing behind her. She was sitting on the couch watching the t.v. I was in my room and heard her saying no no no. So I went to see if she was ok. She was hugging the couch pillow and crying. She was crying really really hard. It scared me. I saw you on the t.v. Mr. Policeman. You had your knee on that mans neck. He kept saying that he could not breathe. Didn't you hear him? And how come you stayed on him for so long? Why didn't you listen? My mom was so so sad. It made me cry to see my mom like that. But I have seen her like that before. Like the day my dad went to prison and when my uncle was killed in that drive by on Crenshaw and when my granny died from cancer. My mom has cried a lot. I went to my mom and gave her a hug. She hugged me really, really tight. It hurt a little bit but it was ok because I'm strong. My granny use to always tell me that. I told my mom that it was going to be ok because God is watching over us. I asked her if she wanted me to pray. She said yes and hugged me harder. So I prayed. I prayed for my mom first. I asked God to stop the tears from coming and to help her to be happy again. Like she was before we lost our family. Then I prayed for all of the people who are crying because of what you did. And then I prayed for you Mr. Policeman. I asked God to help you. I asked him to help you to know that it is not right to hurt other people. I asked him to help you to know that we are suppose to love each other and to be helpful and kind. Then I asked him to help you listen. Mr. Policeman can you please listen next time? And can you please tell your policeman friends to listen too? Thank you photo- Santi Vedri on Unsplash
Ignorance. Privilege. The cost of a life. These are the topics I considered as I sat down to write. It's hard to know where to start right now. Ignoring that we are still in the throes of a pandemic minimizes that reality and all who have and continue to suffer. And yet, the pressing issue of racism and the related unrest in the country seems to require immediate attention. There is no question that we are in turbulent waters and sadly, there seems to be no calming in sight. People are angry. People are divided. People are hurt. People are dying. Through it all, our leadership is fanning the flames of divisiveness rather than encouraging unification. A friend has said to me on more than one occasion that ‘an optimist is merely a pessimist who has had his heart broken too many times.' This sentiment might be attributable to someone else, but its meaning is most important. Beyond the obvious implications, this thought conveys the notion that what occurs around us has a profound and lasting affect that can be far greater and longer-lasting than what is surface level. I feel sad about what is occurring in this country. I feel forlorn contemplating systemic and pervasive racism. I feel horrified witnessing some of the current response. I am not caveating or disclaiming when I explain that I am not judging, nor am I condoning. I know that I do not believe violence is the answer. I also know for certain that I have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in a country that is plagued by racism and discrimination. This is simple. The murder, degradation, and injury perpetuated on and against people of color in this country is heart-wrenching and sickening. It's time for it to stop. The destruction and harm caused to property, businesses, and people, is tragic, devastating, and unnecessary. 100,000 lives lost is a staggering figure. The media's desire to mostly publicize the negative to support an agenda is disappointing. The inability of many representatives to put country before party and people before schemes is mind-boggling. The lack of accountability that has infected our society for decades and our inability to break free of certain paradigms, no matter how little they continue to serve us, is confusing. So, what now? What do we do in the middle of a pandemic as we watch our country burn around us? Well, now we start to do the work. This work is challenging because it is fairly intangible. It's difficult because it is different for everyone, so no universal standard exists. It can seem impossible because it requires patience, courage, and determination. The work means being uncomfortable. It means taking responsibility. It means holding each other accountable. It means asking tough questions. It means acknowledging and putting a spotlight on the broken parts but also making room for the goodness. It means standing up for what's right. Every single time. No matter what. The work is not a hashtag. It's not posting on social media. It's not trendy. It doesn't take one day or even one month. The work is a lifelong commitment. The work will connect you to folks you may never have known, but it will also probably lose you some friends. The work is not clean, it's messy. It's emotional. It will break your heart, knock you down, and then help you get up again. Here's the thing. Without some of us doing the work, we are totally lost. If some of us roll up our sleeves, take a deep breath, and dive in, we can find our way to a much brighter future. My father told me this morning that he sees my despair and he knows it well, but wanted to offer the following wisdom: “We've been here before. Our country has been in a place of chaos and pain and darkness. I have witnessed what is seemingly this country being burnt to the ground in the most literal and metaphorical ways. What I have learned is that what has seemed like the end, is never the end. What has seemed like the worst, is never the bottom. What comes from this pain is hope and love. We are in a bad place, but we are also in a unique position to turn it around. But we can't do that without deciding first that all hope is not lost. We must first acknowledge that there is room to grow. So much room. Have faith in the goodness of people. Sometimes it seems like there is more bad than good, but I've lived on this earth for nearly 67 years and I can tell you that just is not the truth.” I can't think of a better message. There's no easy way out of all of this. That's the reality. We each have a responsibility here if we want more. We have to do our part. Buildings will be rebuilt, bodies will heal, hospitals will be reconverted, and graffiti will be washed away. However, we can only truly heal as a country, a society, and as humans, if we decide that that the value of a singular life cannot be assigned a dollar amount, that we are all truly equal under the law and in each other's eyes, and that the work is always worth it. Always.