That happened in Houston, Texas, at a march in protest of police brutality in early June. Some of George Floyd’s family led the protest. Floyd was from Houston, the city where I became an adult. So, I packed up my suitcase and took off from Austin.
The Nonstop Riders took part in the march, too. They’re a group of Black horsemen, and the sight of them booted and in the saddle, fists raised, was the most Texas thing I’ve ever seen.
In front of us was another Black father with his little girl of about 5 on his neck. She was holding a sign that said, “I Matter.” Everyone kept telling her, “You do matter baby girl!” I hope she remembers that her whole life and it comes back to her anytime she is tempted to think her life does not matter.
She’s going to face that temptation, mostly just because of what it’s like for people who look like she does to live in this America – our America – even in the third decade of the 21st century.
I hope we do right by these babies and their fathers. I hope change comes. Getting the change we need in America will be costly to everyone. Some folks will have to give up things without which they’re not yet prepared to cope. So, it’s going to hurt, too, for some more than for others. It is going to be hard, but it is time. Past time.
Lots of people feel unjustly accused of racism, or defensive, or threatened. Lots of them are our friends and family members. Being sensitive to their feelings and willing to meet them where they are, while also challenging their premises and presumptions and never yielding an inch on principle: It’s a really tough thing to manage, but we have to try.
As Christians we are responsible for the lives of Black children, so they are never murdered because we think things about Black bodies that we never think about White ones – or don’t think about Black bodies that we do think about White ones without even trying or even really being aware of thinking them, like: that they’re people, so they matter.
Racism is a soul issue: one of defense and respect for the dignity of the human person.
We defend and respect that dignity because we are made in the image of God. It is the image of God in each person that we are demanded to respect and defend. The long-lasting lie from hell that Black people are any less human than White people needs to be cast out.
Racism in 2020 doesn’t often look like it did in the past.
It looks like White people talking down to people of color and not even being aware that’s what they’re doing. It looks like questions that don’t need asking, like: “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” Or, it looks like statements: “I don’t think of you as one of those people.” It sounds innocuous, unless you have heard it all your life and you know where it is coming from.
She was holding a sign that said, “I Matter.” Everyone kept telling her, “You do matter baby girl!” I hope she remembers that her whole life and it comes back to her anytime she is tempted to think her life does not matter.
There was a burning cross on a bridge in Alabama and also a leader of the KKK who tried to run down protestors, both in the news not too long ago. Still, racism in this day looks mostly like smiling faces on people who say nice things, but are not ready to pay the cost of true equality.
Deep down, in places none of us like to go – or even acknowledge, let alone talk about – we know that’s what it is.
We all have that little room in the basement of our heart. It’s where we keep the attitudes and casts of mind we’ve held onto like family heirlooms. We’ve kept them like tokens on a shelf for generations (and some of them come from our common parents, Adam and Eve). All of us have that room, and some of the things in those rooms make us participate in systemic racism. They’re more powerful for their being locked away and hidden.
That is where we need to go. Now. Today. Together.
Fr. Augustus Tolton pray for us. St. Katharine Drexel pray for us. St. Maximilian Kolbe pray for us. Dorothy Day pray for us. St. Edith Stein pray for us. St. John Paul II pray for us. Archangels defend us, pray for us and pray for God’s Grace to pour over our heads and hearts.
Leticia Ochoa Adams writes from Texas, on life, death, grief, suicide, faith, motherhood, doubts and whatever (else) happens to be on her mind.
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