I don’t write about current events for a number of reasons: because a lot of other people do, because I’m often not well-informed, and because when I write about others’ actions I tend to blame and judge, which is not helpful. But it seems ridiculous to write a blog on July 7, 2016, that does not take into account the killings of black men on July 5 and 6 in Baton Rouge and St. Paul.
The problem is, I am white. I will never know what it means to worry that, despite all my warnings, my son will leave his hoodie on as he walks to school leaving me to identify his body that night instead of feed him dinner.
I read an op-ed in the New York Times by Michael Eric Dyson, a black sociology professor at Georgetown University, who had little patience for white people who understand privilege because we aren’t doing anything. He said, “We don’t know…how to make you [white people] care enough to stop those who pull the triggers.”
“Care enough”—this is not a policy matter; this is a matter of the heart. Can I truly say that there is nothing of me reflected in the actions of these police officers? I hope I wouldn’t have acted as they did, but until I can love my neighbor as myself—not as much as myself, as Cynthia Bourgeault once explained, but as myself, that is, with a knowing that my neighbor is more myself than other—until I can do that, I am participating in this and all the violence in the world.
So how not to crawl into bed and pull the blanket over our heads because if you are like me, you know that perfection is not within your reach. My prejudices are legion, and they’ll never fully go away.
As my friend Barb Kollenkark wrote recently, the only healthy way to deal with darkness is to bring it into the light. Can we care enough to recognize and act with love toward our own darkness? Loving is not condoning. Loving is seeing it as it is—the woundedness that lies beneath it as well as the harm we have caused and are causing.
I doubt any of this would offer comfort to the loved ones of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, nor, perhaps, should it. It is ours, white people’s, to bear the discomfort of what we have done—not by wallowing in guilt but by acknowledging our responsibility—to ask for God’s undeserved grace to heal us—because surely if we have done these things we are sick—and to act from this new place in a way that can help those we have decimated. “A pure heart create for me, O God.”