Yesterday, I prayed.
Yesterday I dropped to my knees and rested my head on my clutched hands on the side of my bed, closed my eyes and prayed (just the way I used to before going to bed throughout my childhood).
Sure, I pray all of the time; throughout each day, actually. But, God and I have a causal relationship. I’ve always felt that no one has known me longer or knows me better, so I’ve trusted that he accepts me as I am and is always there to listen to my cries and my gratitude. Accordingly, I have no problems communicating while brushing my teeth, driving, writing, cooking, mid-push-up, whenever. We are cool like that.
But, when I’m feeling cracked (not broken) I need to dial-in and ensure that my prayers are uncluttered by any surrounding noise.
I’ve been praying, as I believe most have, about the undeserved, unpunished killings of Black men and women by the men and women we trust to protect and serve us. I’ve been praying for the victims’ families, the protesters, for those who are living in denial to see and admit that there is a problem, for police officers, for change. Daily, of course, I’ve been praying for my 3 Black men: my husband and 2 sons.
It was actually following one of my casual prayers that I knew that I needed to have a formal conversation with God. My son texted me to tell me that he was riding his bike home from school, which is approximately a mile from my home. Immediately after ending the call, I began to pray for his safe arrival home. I wasn’t worried about him getting into a biking accident; or getting lost; I was worried that my 6 foot, 15 year-old Black son could be harmed because he looks dangerous to some riding through our community (which is over 95% White).
Every time my teenage boys leave my home now, I am scared. And yes, all parents have fears, but most parents’ fears are somewhat relieved by knowing that if there is trouble—they can call on the cops. What if it’s the cops who scare you the most? What then? Similarly, I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 11 years. By now, I should feel a sense of security about my child riding his bike to and from his neighborhood school. But weekly, I’m read emails written by various neighbors on our online Neighborhood Watch app about being vigilant about reporting, following, even approaching anyone who looks as if “they don’t belong in our neighborhood.” Let’s be clear, they mean brown people.
I resent that I have to be scared for my kids to do basic things. I am angry that I can’t fully trust the people that I pay taxes to pay to protect my child. I am saddened that people –more people than I could have imagined—look at my handsome, charming, intelligent, kind, well-raised, loved boys and see “bad guys” or feel danger. And frankly, I am pissed that no one seems to care about these tragic circumstances, but the ones who are suffering from them: Black people.
But tragic things have happened to me before. As I tell my sons, life is guaranteed to bring you to your knees. So, I am prepared for the bad times. But I’ve always prayed that unsettling times don’t settle in me; that these turbulent times don’t change me.
Don’t allow me to be weak and let bad things, bad people change me, Lord. Let me remain loving and open. Remind me that most people are good people. Help make me better, not bitter.
Then I went on with my day, crawled into my bed that night, and looked at FB for the first time that day. This message was in my inbox.
I see your posts and I sometimes want to comment-to ask how to help. I have 2 boys and I know that you have 2 boys…and when you post things about the issues that are happening I think I don’t know how I would cope with more fear than I already generally have as a mother. I am probably that ‘white middle-class American’, but I really don’t have any clue what to do to help…. Other than to raise my children how not to be. So…just really asking for specific things I could do to help make things better.
Isn’t God so good?
I crawled out the bed, got back down on my knees, closed my eyes, bowed my wet, tear stained face, and told Him, “thank you.”
I crawled back into bed, and wrote the same note to my friend: “thank you.” That was all I could muster right then — was to simply thank her.
She answered so much of her question by simply asking it. She acknowledged that there is a problem. What Black people want first from their non-Black friends, co-workers, neighbors is at least an acknowledgement that our Black fathers, sons, brothers and friends are in jeopardy. And it’s not right.
I know that it is uncomfortable to talk about something that is racially and politically charged. It is uncomfortable to even talk to your closest friend when they have lost a loved one. We just don’t know the right words to say. But, we say something. We come up with something—even though we may fumble and be clumsy with our words– because we understand that we must let our friends know that we are there for them. We must let our friends know that though we may not understand exactly how they feel, we know that they are hurting; and that makes us hurt. We must let our friends know that though we may not know what to do, we care and want to do something. That alone, does so much.