I guess it is the price you pay for jogging while black.
I am not in any way making a joke.
I at first felt as if typing those words was making me sick. Then I realized I was typing the words from a deep sick feeling down inside of me.
News reposts tell me that a young black man was hunted and gunned down for basically being black. For jogging while being black.
How could that be?
When I was in my early teens a high school senior in my home congregation decided to bring a friend of hers to church. I recall vividly looking down the hallway as Jennifer and her friend approached from the opposite end of the hall. It is not so much the sight of the two approaching that I so remember. It is the reaction of nearly every other person in that corridor to the astounding sight before them.
Jennifer had the audacity to bring a black person to our all-white Evangelical church.
This young man was attending church while black. Didn’t he know he that could get him killed?
Perhaps not literally. But the looks I saw on the adult faces all around me were murderous for sure. I was not clear at the time who they would go for first. The black friend or Jennifer.
The memory makes me feel sad and sick. It makes me sadder still that things like this are still happening. That a young black man cannot go jogging without being profiled and gunned down for simply being black.
Now let me be clear I have not fact checked the details of this report. Had he not been black that would not be questioned or in need of justification. The sick, sad feeling in my body is enough evidence for me.
A mother of two shared with me that seeing this news report filled her with dread regarding the destiny of her own black sons. Hearing and feeling her fear churned my sadness into grief and my anger into rage. What must she go through on a daily basis? These are adult sons. Yet would not she want to lock them safely in the house and away from those who would destroy them for nothing more than the color of their skin?
There is no spirituality without a deep, honest inquiry into how and where race relations land within us individually. We must know directly how we were programmed to relate to people of different races, cultures, religions, orientations. I had to go inside of myself to deal with and integrate that experience of Jennifer and her black friend. I conceptually believed that all people are equal long before I had a deep, felt experience of it. I had to get ruthlessly real about having a white God before I could embrace a God of all color.
So, I am sick, and I am sad. And I am more committed than ever to do everything I can to contribute to a world where black beings can jog and shop and attend church and go anywhere at anytime and not fear being attacked, smeared, or gunned down.
My sickness, sadness, grief, and even rage are signals to me that justice is being violated, and that I am here to take a stand for restoring that justice. We are far from a world or a country of truly equal rights. The ravages of this pandemic and where it is hitting hardest is glaring evidence of it.
Though I have been maligned, bullied, and beaten for being gay there were times earlier in life when I tried and successfully “passed.” I know I would not be welcome now in the church of my upbringing. There would certainly be an uprising in the hallway if I were to enter today. Especially if I had my husband on my arm. I no longer choose to attempt to pass. And I also know that there is an advantage to being gay yet also being white.
You cannot pass for being white.
I write these words from my sick, sad, and aching heart. I write these words for mothers who fear their children will be gunned down for nothing more than being black. I write these words for Jennifer, and for that friend who turned so many heads in that so-called Christian church. I write these words wondering if he survived being black in a world where the odds are against him. I write these words as a part of my response and as a part of my stand for justice.
A change must happen. For mothers, sons, daughters, joggers of black and brown heritage. That change has and continues happening inside of me. I will not be silenced. Regardless of how this writing is received I will continue to speak out when justice is denied. Until my dying breath I will speak out.
Thank you, Jennifer. It was a brave thing to do. And thank you to the friend I never even got to meet. You turned heads. And you were a part of opening my heart.
I pray you are somewhere jogging safely.
Black, and safe.