Nowadays news breaks faster than it can be consumed yet it all results in the same clarion call, “Black Lives Matter.” I can barely keep up with it all and sometimes I don’t want to. It’s not that I don’t care, I care very much. It’s just that its hard and exhausting to be angry all the time—which is the rate at which I’d have to be angry because of the rate at which police are violating black bodies. It’s difficult when you continue to be angry about the same thing, hear people tell you how to be or how more black men should be, but very few aim their suggestions and critiques at the systems of oppression that are at the root of the problem.
A State of Emergency was declared by the governor of Baltimore, a city ravaged by the frustration of its citizens but the governor–and his peers–didn’t declare a State of Emergency for the police that beget the violence. Additionally, privilege rears its ugly head and reveals that it is not only in the hands of the fairer skinned but those in positions of power. This means that hearing Black people call their own brothers and sisters “thugs” is not unlikely.
Initially it seemed like most of us were on the same side but now we are divided as some people suffer from selective amnesia and categorize the rage as those people “tearing up their own community” as those people “being animals,” as those people “being thugs.” Somehow these people forgot that the origins of the rage are not because of this isolated incident–it is a response to a larger issue–and it is not among those people in community but among those other people in power over them. Those other people who have historically had a stronghold over black lives since our arrival in this country at their hands. They’ve been looting and plundering this land for centuries and their stories make up the majority of the narratives in history books, but we are the ones who get called thugs when we raise up against the systematic pillaging of black bodies.
It has been said that history is written by the victors and in the 21st century most of us get to see exactly how it is written by various media outlets that consistently get the story wrong. These media outlets are our modern-day victors because they get the ratings and the money even when they get it wrong. These media outlets also participate in murder, even if only through the continuous character assassination that is waged through their pens, keyboards, and microphones.
We, black people, are taking it at all sides. Suffering the abuse of those called to protect and serve us. Mischaracterized by those who are supposed to do fair and balanced reporting. Not being supported by those who share the same ancestral lineage as us.
How much more can we take?
What we are witnessing in Baltimore is people who are tired of injustice. It is about Freddie Gray but it is also about the manifold times law enforcement violated black bodies and black voices were ignored by people in authority. They are people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired and thus they took to the streets in protest to have their bodies seen and their voices heard. They organized themselves for protest but were met by contrarians who don’t support the “Black Lives Matter” message or movement. And thus, another type of protest unfolded. I can only say, as I saw echoed on social media, “I do not have to condone it to understand it.” The issue at hand is not property damage but it is people damage. The root causes of the people damage are systems of structural and systematic oppression set up to perceive black men and women as targets and marginalized persons not worthy of full humanity. This is at the heart of the protests and the shouts that “Black Lives Matter.” For over a year many have taken up that mantra in support of the dignity of black lives but we’ve yet to see any change. President Barack Obama said it well in his press conference today when he said,
“But if we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It’s just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant — and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they’re important.”
As a community of faith we are called to speak out against injustice. We are called not just to pray or write #PrayforBaltimore but to actively lay our hands to the plow of affecting change. We are called to do what we can to change the narrative and recast the images of us that the media insists on disseminating. We are called to raise up black bodies to their rightful position of humanity, dignity, and sacredness by casting down every argument and action contrary to that. We are called to use the energy of righteous indignation to drive us toward justice-seeking measures. We trust God to bring justice but we must also understand that part of that is the work we do to reveal justice here on earth. It is not a supernatural waiting game that we play. There is work for us to do, even for those of us at a distance from Baltimore. To that end, here is a list of things to do in support of the on-the-ground efforts in Baltimore and make clear, how important we believe black lives are.
1) Call your elected officials, and ask them if Black life is a priority for them, where they stand on 1033 program (policy that allows military equipment in cities), and when will they declare that the killing of unarmed Black and Brown citizens a national emergency, especially with elections around the corner?
2) Find ways to support grassroots efforts and spaces like Baltimore United for Change Coalition and Empowerment Temple;
3) Donate to organizations such as Operation Help or Hush which is currently ensuring that kids on reduced or free lunch are still being fed during school closures
4) Sign up to be a mentor, and if in Baltimore or DC, I suggest US Dream Academy;
5) Write an op-ed, create a video message, help change the narrative.
Thank you to attorney Ify Ike, Esq. for the suggestions on ways to help the people of Baltimore out. If you have any further suggestions, please leave them in the comments.