But I don’t know what to say. I keep reverting back to, “This can’t be happening… This can’t be real…” and that just makes me angrier — at my country, at myself…
Each morning, for the past week, I have sleepily rolled over upon waking and grabbed my cell phone. But instead of going to Facebook first… Instead of drowsily playing a game of Candy Crush, I have been visiting Twitter and it has rattled me every morning.
Why is this happening? What is the solution? Even if we can stop all the chaos in Ferguson, that doesn’t mean anything is resolved.
I’ve been following Wesley Lowery on Twitter, specifically.
His live-tweet style updating of his moment-to-moment in Ferguson is paralyzing. It strikes so much fear in my heart and in my gut.
Entire neighborhood encased with barriers. No way out without driving through someone’s lawn pic.twitter.com/UMU1oZbChe
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
What if there were armoured vehicles in my streets and concrete barricades blocking the entrance to my neighborhood?
I don’t even want to ask myself the question, “Why hasn’t this ever happened to me?” because I know the answer… And it makes me so damn angry. An old college friend, Shana Pennywell, mentioned she would be writing something about Ferguson this week. I pinged her on Facebook because I wanted to read it. Shana is also married to one of my “big brothers” from my youth… Styron, her husband, played football with my brother and as a young teenager, I felt well-protected by my brother as well as these adopted brothers that were his friends. Shana and I went to Kennesaw State University around the same time and I didn’t have a chance to get really close to her before my life took a turn and I left the church and college in the same year. But because of our connection through her husband, we have been able to maintain one of those beautiful, Facebook-only friendships where we share in each other’s joys and frustrations even though we live in different cities and haven’t physically laid eyes on each other in probably more than ten years.
I have been particular in tune to her posts in recent years because she and Styron had a daughter, Emerson, a few years back. Emerson is beautiful and, even though I have never physically set eyes upon her, reading Shana’s posts about her wild and precocious nature have made it seem like I’ve had a connection with this little girl. I’ve watched her grow up. Shana wrote on her Facebook late last night:
Honestly, it is a daily fight and decision to give grace rather than give a hard side eye to people at school, church, playground, grocery stores, banks, department stores, restaurants – wondering if my child was victimized or God forbid killed because of her blackness would the same people who to often gush over her, remarking about how sweet, smart, beautiful, kind, funny she is, would they care much less be outraged by her fate?
Sadly, Ferguson is a bleak reminder that the more likely reaction to such an event would be tacit endorsement through silence or hushed toned conversations about a picture flashed by media and a victim shaming counter narrative aimed to sully everything about my child’s right to exist – so people would not carry the sadness and shame of what happened. Moreover that my child would no longer have to be thought of as a victim. Trayvon Martin deserved to die because he was wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie. Renisha McBride deserved to die because she was drunk. Eric Garner deserved to die because he was selling loose cigarettes.
I am struggling a with the belief that those very same people will choose believe she sought her own fate. That a counterattack narrative authored by unnamed faces – who never talked to Emerson, touched her, or hugged her- will become “truth”. I wonder if those same people’s silence is an endorsement of the greater proposition that black lives hold such little value that the loss of one simply deserves an explanation rather than justice.
I have felt a sour sting in my stomach for the last week, but reading Shana’s words… relating them to Emerson directly… All I could tell her was that it rattled me.
I still don’t know what to do. I’m reading articles online and sharing them with my circles… I’m having a hard time trying to sort out how much of this I talk with my son about, so we’ve just barely skated around the topics.
Mostly, I feel powerless. And I recognize that feeling this was is ridiculous… As a white, middle class woman that has never really experienced any kind of stripping of my own personal power, it’s audacious for me to feel this way. But I can only articulate what I feel as I feel it. I cannot fathom what it feels like to be a person of color in Ferguson, MO right now. I just can’t even begin to wrap my brain around it.
What is real – This country has eroded many former gains in the civil rights movement to the point that we are the living embodiment of Mississippi Burning. Biblically, fires represents purification of the soul akin to the process of refining gold. If the soul of this country is on the precipice of utter ruin, then let it be refined.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t endorse the violence, but I empathize with the rage. It is a generational wariness of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. But the same holds true “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Malcolm X
This American story is being written every second of every day. Silence is no longer an option. Silence allows someone else to write the story.
— Question Bridge (@QuestionBridge) August 12, 2014