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CAN I STEAL YOUR SUFFERING OR CAN I SHARE IT?


We are a country flowing with blood, though we don’t like to see ourselves that way. No one likes to look at themselves in a negative light; it is uncomfortable, it is depressing, it is disturbing. Some of us find it not only acceptable but justifiable to kill others, to protect our rights, our homes, our lives, our honor, our way of life, our racial integrity, our power, our superiority, and even our desire not to be annoyed. We take a perverse kind of macho glory in how violent we can be.

We have a collective history in being afraid of what others will take from us, sometimes feeling their freedom is an affront to ours, that in some way their demands for justice and an equal place are in fact a limitation on our expansion. Their progress must be a sign of our diminishment. Limitation feels like an attack, assigned guilt feels like pain, and it makes some of us mad.

There is a glory in suffering, a frightful majesty we find in the oppressed, a moral credibility arising from a fight for survival against the odds. Native Americans make fun of white people who want to be Indian. Dream catchers hanging from our rear view mirrors, braids and feathers in our hair, turquoise belts, rings, a few words of greeting, smoking peyote.

It is intriguing and a bit amazing that some white people feel oppressed when black people are too much on the news, as if Al Sharpton was going to take over the government. “Now that would have been a fair and just expression of grief and anger over the killing if only Sharpton hadn’t come.“ Now that the event or issue is corrupted and made into a political or personal aggrandizement the deaths mean nothing, the killing means nothing, and the hatred means nothing evidently and simply because we don’t like Sharpton. Clown suits in a cemetery don’t mean people ain’t dying.

Whether crazy or hateful, people feel justified in their killing. They have the guns and so weak people become powerful., the impotent become important. Executioners by personal commission, self-authorized executioners to somehow redress a racial imbalance they feel from media intoxication and the inhaling of a truncated and twisted select stream of misinformation.

Sometimes the attention paid to the slaughtered, the disenfranchised, the put out and left out with their cries for redress, their compressed solidarity, their cultural forming due to the crucible of injustice creates envy. “Pay attention to me, don’t take from me, let my life be as authentic as yours, let me be you.” One of the effects of racism is a kind of mental sickness, an inability to see persons and oneself correctly.

How wonderful to assuage guilt by side stepping it, by becoming the party with the more attractive narrative, by wanting to fight for justice by switching sides, by avoiding the harder task. We cannot end guilt with denial, we cannot end shame with more of our hatred to add to its cause, we cannot create racial health by wallowing in racial illness through self-hatred or envy or more racism.

The harder task is to accept our collective responsibility, to live with the weight of what others like me, who have the power and privilege compared to what others enjoy, and learn to use it for everyone’s justice, and everyone’s good. It is foolish to pretend I don’t have it even if I haven’t earned it, or don’t innately deserve it. The greater task is to make a difference from who I am, and from whom I’m come, and to be grateful for that witness and that opportunity to finally do something good and to finally be on the right side of history.

The challenge is to share in the struggle from an honest place. I don’t have to gain power or authenticity by stealing someone else’s story, or snuffing out their lives and silencing their voices because I don’t like the way I look in the story. If you’re looking for forgiveness, find it in God. If you’re looking to make sense of your life in this world you can only do it from a clear window, from the perspective of truth, in the way you see and in the way you are seen.

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