“I can’t breathe.” These were the prophetic words of George Floyd as he was publicly lynched before our very eyes. Some eyes, weathered and worn from trauma upon trauma. Some eyes, shocked and in disbelief. But we all felt the gut-wrenching punch of that cry, “I can’t breathe.”
A cry now reverberating in the streets in protests and outrage. Lamenting the disproportionate black suffering and death in this current pandemic. How long, O Lord, how long?
A cry that threatens to suck up all the air for our brown and black siblings. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and too many hashtags. We are weary. We are angry. We are so very tired.
A cry so full of heartbreak and yet confoundingly simple, sung by weary and courageous prophets and sages, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. They can’t breathe.
Listen. Listen to the prophets. Listen to the lament. Listen to the terror of injustice we ourselves cannot imagine. Listen.
They can’t breathe.
As a pastor, a mother, a follower of Jesus, and a white woman of privilege, I beseech my fellow white friends, neighbors, colleagues and community members — Listen. Listen to the prophets.
We can’t go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes. (#BothemJean and #AtatianaJefferson).
We can’t ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
We can’t have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
We can’t leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
[Read More… Black People Are So Tired]
Listen to our black siblings — preachers, social justice activists, writers, poets, and artists.
What is the color of air?
Who owns the right to breathe?
Why are we so afraid of each other?
[Read More…Running For Your Life]
And for the love of all things good and holy, just listen.
You are grieved. You are outraged. You feel helpless and you don’t know what to do.
Listen. Listen until their pain becomes your pain. Weep with those who weep. Mourn with those who mourn. [Romans 12:15]
Listen. Listen to understand the magnitude and the scope. Here is a place to start. [Anti-Racism Resources]
Listen. Don’t feel the need to pontificate other than to spur others on. To listen.
Now listening to prophets comes at a cost — for it is sure to make us uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is exactly where we want to be. As white folks, for all our years of privileged distance and comfort, repentance looks like discomfort and proximity. We must be willing to be uncomfortable, to get outside of our own homogenous experiences, friendships and worldviews. And we must refuse our own privilege of distance and apathy, choosing instead to move closer…closer to the anguish, the discomfort of our complicity, the not knowing what to do or to say, and our own ignorance. We must lament a world in which black lives are disposable.
So yes, mourn, weep and lament and ... Listen. Give up your distance. Give up your comfort.
They can’t breathe.
If you and I are going to join in the work of reconciliation to make the community livable again [Isaiah 58:12], we must learn what it is to love our neighbor as ourselves. [Luke 10:27-28] Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.” Do this and maybe we all can breathe.
by Jessica Ketola