Some say, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” but what about spilled blood?
How do we clean this up? How do we respond to blatant acts of racism and social injustice?
It seems to make clear and perfect sense – if something hurts and makes you cry, then you weep and wail, moan and groan over it.
Pretending that nothing is wrong with race and racism is blatant denial. It’s also a part of the grief cycle.
A study published last year by Auburn University in the journal Health Psychology has observed that stress related to incidents of racism may shorten the lifespan of African Americans.
This means they would live longer if not for it. The findings make it a public health issue. Racism, then, is bad for their health.
It is also bad for our communities, faith-based or otherwise. But acknowledging the loss of dignity, of morality, of hope and even of faith in humanity is not easy.
Accepting that we saw it, turned a blind eye, or winked at it, participated or covered it up, all of this is heavy stuff.
Sharing that we experienced it, suffered the brunt of it and were made to feel as if we deserved it, this is buried stuff.
Consequently, it can be difficult to eulogize the oppressive effects of white supremacy. What do we say and how do we begin to say it?
“We are gathered here today to remember who we could have been if not for race, racism, prejudice, stereotypes and all of the other odds stacked against us. We have come to remember a purpose, racialized and greatly diminished, to mourn the loss of the stranger that we became. We are sad because of missed opportunities to connect deeply, for the superficial things we let come between us. We are grieved by the selfish ways we behaved, believing that the whole world was ours.”
Finding the words to share our experiences of social death causes pain, which is why we would do well to lament.
While the online group’s work is guided by Rob Muthiah’s Lamenting Racism: A Christian Response to Racial Injustice, this is not a virtual book club.
During the first gathering and the first questions, participants were invited to reflect and respond in order to make it evident. This was not a lighthearted chat or a debate over history and our present memory but a personally deepening experience.
We were being invited to acknowledge our shared wounding and to grieve. What was race doing to us and to our human being?
While there is never a perfect time, there is no better time. The work around race, social justice and our collective healing is always needed.
More arguments than agreements, how we respond to race and racism has always been problematic.
Perhaps we could start to fix it after some collective moans and sighs, a really good cry, after we have raised our fists together and then shaken them at the sky.
For six weeks, participants have been invited to gather online to discuss race and racism, to study the laments of the psalmists and to cry out for justice. Contact NBC to inquire about the current cohort, as well as future cohorts they might be planning to offer.
Muthiah reminds us that lament is an opportunity to voice pain, despair, protest and even rage. If you don’t believe him, he shares the words of Job.
“Why did you bring me forth from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me, and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave” (Job 10:18-19, NRSV).
See, the Bible is not just full of God’s praise. There is room for you and me to speak our mind and to have our say.
We are no different than the psalmist who sang, “Why are you so far away, Lord, hiding yourself in troubling times” (10:1, CEB).
After the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and too many others, didn’t you feel this way?
If so, then lament. Because we could all use a good cry.