A police officer strikes a protester in the back during demonstrations in Berkeley, California on Saturday, December 6, 2014. Protesting continued through the night in response to the grand jury verdicts in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City by local police officers in their communities.
A day I once abhorred. It used to mean going to Latta Road Baptist church and counting down the seconds until it was time to leave. It used to mean sitting on the floor, between my aunt's legs, getting my hair plaited, while watching primetime television on PBS or CBS. And it used to mean whatever fun, play, or rest I was having was coming to an end, and the impending doom of school or work would sink in.
S U N D A Y.
You see, today - at 30 years old - I've given this day a whole new meaning. These are the days in which I get to do whatever I want to do. That could look any number of things from cleaning my apartment, to doing laundry, to meeting up with friends, to doing absolutely nothing, to taking a bubble bath, to listening to music, to hula hooping, to going to church, etc. I LOVE Sundays!
S U N D A Y.
Here is the design of my morning today:
- Wake up.
- Eat food.
- Drink coffee.
- Teach an amazing 60 minute spin class.
- Go to Glide Memorial Church at 11am.
I want to highlight that last bullet on my list of things I get to do.
There was a moment today, when Pastor Theon Johnson III picked up the microphone and looked out into the pews. His face and his being were a little unusual. Still and somber; he held the mic to his mouth.
"I didn't say this in the 9 o'clock service. But I have to say this." He paused.
"So, y'all are making up for the 9 o'clock service..." A few seconds of silence goes by as he surveys the congregation.
"All lives matter."
"All. Lives. Matter."
"And," He shook his head. With a blend of resignation and gumption he continues, "Black lives matter."
He turns to the other pastors with his arms out, shaking his head no, and mouthing "I'm sorry, I had to."
"I feel that it is my civic duty to say something!"
I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said.
What will I say that will contribute to and forward the movement.
Who am I gonna offend?
Who am I gonna have to defend myself to?
Who am I gonna have to delete from social media!?
There was a quote that popped up in the slideshow on the canvas backdrop behind the pastor. I don't remember it word for word, but it was about acknowledging one's privilege. What I thought was interesting was that it didn't say white privilege. Just privilege.
I found a similar quote:
“You don't necessarily have to do anything once you acknowledge your privilege. You don't have to apologize for it. You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about.”
― Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist: Essays
Do I acknowledge my privilege? Do I even understand it?
I have one black parent and one white parent. As a result, my skin tone is somewhat fair. It doesn't seem to matter that I identify as a bi-racial woman, because generally speaking, I'm seen as a black woman. Sometimes, though not often, I might be seen as a light-skinned black woman.
[Now, this conversation can start to go in 12 different directions here, so just stay with me.]
Although it repulses me to say it, the fact that I have lighter skin gives me a degree of privilege. Yes, it's true. I am treated differently than my darker skinned bothers and sisters. What shows up for me while acknowledging this is embarrassment, shame, sadness, and lastly anger.
I'm embarrassed because I've done nothing about it.
I'm ashamed because I'm grateful for it.
I'm sad because these wounds are so deep and have longevity.
I'm angry because people are born into an already existing system that is unjust.
I am fully aware that my experience is completely different from your experience. And I'm even more aware that I have no idea the experience of being a black man in America.
Inside of that awareness -- my heart breaks.
It breaks for my 3 brothers. It breaks for my friends, my cousins, my unborn children...[my white male friend asked me recently, "You know if you have a son, he's gonna be...brown. Do you ever have concerns about that?"]
This sh*t is real. And unfortunately, it is becoming more and more violent. I wish that were not that case, and - that is the case. To the people who say comments like, "why are we making this about race?" or "the cops are just doing their jobs" or "be wiser in how you protest" or anything remotely close to that. I'm not here to agree or disagree with you, but perhaps you'll understand this:
I CAN'T EVEN WITH YOU!
Check. Your. Privilege. PLEASE.
Also, do you think Gloria Steinem, Harvey Milk, or Malcolm X were like, "Nah, guys. We mustn't ruffle any feathers here while we stand for equality!"
I am proud to be from New York, and I love living in the Bay Area, where so much activism and so many social movements have taken place.
To the brave souls marching in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, New York, Ferguson, etc. -- I honor you. I thank you. I pray for you. I love you.
I'm reminded that I have a voice. I am a public figure. And I will no longer be silent!
Blessings to all!
A man stands with his hands raised in front of a line of police officers during a protest after it was announced that the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner was not indicted, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in New York. A grand jury cleared the New York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a lawyer for the victim's family said. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)