on waiting until “all the facts are in”

I am watching my Black women friends reeling at the gut punch of the murder of ‪#‎KorrynGaines‬. And I am watching white people, yet again, sit on the sidelines and wait until we get “all the facts” before deciding whether or not her death at the hands of police was justified.

I am raw and tired and heartbroken and sick of watching the way this kind of trauma–from the killing itself, to the ambivalent reaction to it from white people and men in particular–is re-enacting violence on the Black women in my life.

Here are the questions I am asking myself as I sit with this story, and the white response to it:

  • Whose story is being told here, and from whose perspective?
  • What things are considered facts, and who is the arbiter of that truth?
  • What competing standards of “violence” and “self defense” are at play here?
  • How are our minds, colonized by white supremacy, already trained to respond to this story?
  • How do misogyny and patriarchy contribute to our willingness to invisibilize or dismiss the deaths of Black women–including and particularly trans women–at the hands of police?
  • In what ways do respectability politics–who is “innocent” and “a good person” and “nonviolent”–play into our (white people’s) willingness to sit on the sidelines and withhold judgment about which Black people do and do not deserve to die at the hands of police?
  • Here is what I know:

I know better than to ever, ever, ever trust the account of police officers when it comes to the murders of Black people. I know there is every likelihood that this story of her with a shotgun is a complete and total fabrication.

Milwaukee, 2015.

Milwaukee, 2015.

I know that we live in a surveillance culture that actively controls our “freedom of speech,” and punishes all those who resist the kyriarchy.

I know that any interaction between Black people and police can be deadly, and compliance with police does not guarantee safety.

I know that activists like Korryn Gaines, like my beloveds here in the Twin Cities Movement for Black Lives, like Assata Shakur and Fred Hampton and all the Black freedom fighters who came before them have been hunted, harassed, defamed, and sometimes slaughtered by the state for their insistence that a world in which they were recognized as full human beings is possible.

I know that armed police forces can, and do, regularly exercise restraint with “armed and dangerous” people when they choose to. Squads of white militiamen engage in 40 day standoffs in Oregon, murderous white biker gangs are arrested without incident, and white mass murderers are regularly apprehended alive and unharmed after hours- or days-long standoffs and chases.

I know that if a militarized police force showed up at my door to “serve warrants” against me for a minor traffic infraction, and I had been consistently working to dismantle the police state for whom they worked and I knew they knew that about me, I would view their entry to my home as an act of war.

I know that if she chose to arm herself with a shotgun in her own home, to protect herself and her baby, in response to every reasonable fear of being killed by the police, it was self-defense–against the cops in that room, and against a 400 year history of knowing that her life was disposable in the eyes of the state.

I know that Korryn Gaines was not the one to introduce violence into this situation, whether or not she was actually armed when they entered her home.

And I know that the luxury of waiting for the facts, reserving judgment, deciding whether or not the lives of Black people murdered by police are worthy of our respect and defense and solidarity is a choice that too many of our neighbors and kin do not have.

about this blog

Sometimes I write things on the interwebz.  Mainly on Facebook, really, but sometimes those things get picked up and shared or published elsewhere, and then I lose track of them and I can’t find them and I can’t track how my own heart and thinking are developing, and how the communities with whom I’m in relationship are shaping that evolution.  So, it makes sense to try to put these musings all in one place, and the (older millennial and younger Gen Xer) kidz tell me blogs are a good way to do that.

Also, I have ALWAYS been a terrible journaler.  Maybe it has something with being an extravert whose mind does processing out loud far better than on paper; maybe it’s just that I’m not disciplined enough; maybe it’s that I’d rather be in conversation with others than with myself.  I completely recognize the power of a regular writing practice for reflection and clarity, and I admire people who are able to write–whether in journal or more public form–on the regular.  So, #lifegoals, maybe having this thing out there publicly will hold me accountable to some sort of writing discipline in community with others.

And a final note: the name of the blog is from a poem called “Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along the Way,” written by Catholic Bishop Ken Untener in 1979 for a service commemorating priests who had died.  It is sacred text to me–it was one of the readings at my ordination, and I come back to it often as a guide and an exhortation for the kind of ministry (official and unofficial) I’d like to do. The full text of the poem is:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Excited to be planting seeds, laying foundations, providing yeast with all of you.