Reflection: What do we require?
How are you doing? No. How are you really doing?
This is my professional portfolio site, for sure.
But you know what?
I’m not simply a professional. I’m a human being. I’m a black American woman.
And when I work, I work as a professional black American woman.
No magical switch is flipped. I don’t become translucent or sexless or ungendered, detached from my upbringing, my culture, my country, my history.
That doesn’t happen. It can’t happen. And according to researchers at Harvard, it will never happen in my lifetime.
But it’s been a year.
Like many Americans, my “friends list” has shrunk since Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were murdered by police officers. Some were removed by my hand, some by their own.
At the core of all this relational conflict is the question as to whether one party acknowledges and is willing to denounce the current lopsided reality — a reality whose existence is supported by science (watch out — that one’s a doozy!) and ample research, and experienced and sensed by (supposedly) trusted fellow humans.
It’s never been a question of whether it’s true.
It’s a question of whether it’s believed.
Sadly, many, more than we thought, are not ready or willing to believe.
We’re disappointed, but not surprised.
Still, I am proud of the abundance of grace and patience black Americans have given non-black citizens. With each disproportionate murder, with every outrageous conviction and with every viral harassment, we forgive seventy times seventy times. And just like between two private individuals who reconcile, after one person forgives, the other should repent (stop the harm) and repair (restore the balance).
Our unpaid labor, our stolen inheritance, our violated bodies, our terrorized families… All government sanctioned and facilitated by elected officials in all corners of civil service, and of course blessed by the nicest, quietest white neighbors.
We forgive. We wonder. We wait.
White America used to be fearful of a bloody revenge that, granted, is justly theirs ever since the first Reconstruction. Maybe they think less about physical harm nowadays, but they know that it’s what we’ve learned from them. How could we choose to fail to return the “kindness”? Still, now it’s more of an existential fear of loss…a fear of having to potentially experience what we’ve experienced (But under whom? See above, I suppose…). This wariness and dread of a loss of status keeps most would-be white allies oppressively optimistic and in a state of spiritual and emotional inertia. They’re still more afraid of the loss of unearned privilege, than of the loss of the freedom (from their own self-imposed and immorally sustained grandiose) they would gain by fully joining the rest of brown and black humanity.
Losing what you and your ancestors didn’t earn isn’t unjust. Being denied what you and your ancestors did earn most certainly is.
And if some are still worried about vengeance. Well… Revenge won’t happen because that’s not what we require. That’s not what we’ve ever truly required.
“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
And if you’re not a child of Abraham, the translation is: Mind your own business and get out of our way.
So how am I doing? How am I really doing?
I’m a little less patient and yet more patient that ever, as change is immanent. I’m comfortable with what I am and what I say. I laugh much more than I cry. I’m picking and choosing what’s worth taking so seriously. I only welcome facilitative anxiety. I’m unlearning my limitations. I’m going to act like I belong here and there and wherever. I’m just above pandemic-okay, and yet so far beyond. Whatever this is, it transcends anger and might be closer to bliss.
I’m forgiving more. I’m wondering more. I’m waiting.
I’m me. At work. At home. And I’m good.