It’s Not Just #blacklivesmatter, #blackbodiesmatter Too

Let’s take a look at the most recent high-profile police-black men encounters:

After he was chokeholded, there seemed to be no urgency in the response from either the officers on the scene or from the EMTs who finally arrived some minutes later to give Eric Garner assistance. (if you haven’t watched the rest of the video after Eric Garner stops saying “I can’t breathe” you should)

Mike Brown’s body was allowed to lie in the street for four-and-a-half hours (two of those hours uncovered, if I’m remembering correctly). And a nurse who was on the scene at the time of the shooting was not allowed to render aid.

Akai Gurley. After being shot and making it down a flight of stairs received no aid because the officers who shot him–instead of assessing the situation and calling for aid–were texting their union reps and maintained radio silence for at least 6 minutes. The only reason that aid was called was because Akai Gurley’s girlfriend was able to get a neighbor to call.

After shooting him a mere two seconds after pulling up on him, the officers who shot Tamir Rice let him lie there for four minutes without any aid. The only reason aid was administered was because an FBI agent in the area came to the scene and rendered aid.

Four situations. Four deaths. Four cases of mistreatment of black bodies.

While we are talking about #blacklivesmatters, we need to expand that to also include #blackbodiesmatter too. The treatment of these black men’s bodies by those in authority/positions of power is shameful and is just another manifestation of this society’s thinking about black people.

Anthony Pinn wrote:

Black bodies are complex signs that represent something both appealing and repulsive for the society in which we dwell.

There’s something to that, I think.

When you look at the history of what is now the U.S., you will see that the first laws regarding black people are anti-miscegenation laws. What does that say?

#blackbodiesmatter. How society treats black bodies matters too.

more later.


UUs, Do Me A Favor….Stop Quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

I get it. I really do. King has been neutered to the point that he’s palatable to most white audiences.

But…in all honesty…another last thing I want/need is to hear white people telling me that nonviolence is the answer to this.

If you want to talk about race in America, stop using King to do it. He’s not all the helpful in the present situation.

James Baldwin works though. Or Malcolm X. Langston Hughes even.

Or maybe Toni Morrison. Audre Lorde. Tricia Rose.

If you’re looking for those who are writing about it in a more explicitly religious way….how about James Cone? Katie Geneva Cannon? Delores Williams?

And if you’re looking for somebody in the UU realm…may I introduce you to Anthony Pinn?

Now is not the time to be lazy. There are better options out there than King. Or is the reason you choose King because he is dead and neutered?

This Slow Genocide (#MikeBrown, #TamirRice, and #AkaiGurley)

The following is a reflection that I gave yesterday at First Unitarian-St. Louis:

Around 11:15 p.m. on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, Akai Gurley and a female friend decided to take the stairs when the elevator in the housing complex they were in was taking an extraordinarily long time to reach their floor. Upon entering the stairwell, Akai was shot center mass. Somehow he was able to make it down a flight of stairs before collapsing in his friend’s arms.

Akai Gurley was shot by a member of the NYPD.

A little more than 28 hours later, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Tamir Rice was in the outdoor area of a recreational center not far from his home. Before the afternoon was over, he was shot in the chest and stomach by a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan PD. He died a week ago today of complications from those shots.

Tamir Rice was 12.

The slow genocide continues unabated.

Both of these incidents happened in the 96 hours before the announcement of a no true bill in the case of Darren Wilson’s slaying of Mike Brown. The night of the announcement, a woman posted the following message on Twitter:

My 7-yr-old son just said, “Don’t worry mom. If we want to live, we just have to stay home.”

It has been a very rough 10 days.

I was an Universalist first; even before I ever heard of the term. But right now, I need there to be a hell to send some people to and not the ‘hell on earth’ that some live in every day of their lives.

It has been a rough 10 days.

If the averages hold true, by the time this community gathers again a week from today, 3 black or brown men will have died at the hands of an agent of the state.

As someone who has been trained for the ministry, I am supposed to be all about preaching healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Yet right now the last thing I need or want is to heal or reconcile. There is no redemption to be had in this slow genocide.

Since today is about covenant–the breaking of them and the repairing of them–one of the stories I go to time and time and time again is the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac in the book of Genesis. (Those of you who heard me speak from this chancel in August will probably remember that.) In that story, G-d make the promise to Abram that if he looked in the sky and saw the stars, for as many stars as he saw “that number shall your descendents be.” Because of their actions though, Abram and Sarah made it so that Hagar and Ishmael were left out of the promise. So you can see that humanity has been thinking about how to deal with broken covenants for a long time.

In the biblical story, G-d and Hagar come to an agreement about Ishmael’s fate (I’m calling it an agreement, but it’s much more complicated than that). And when it comes time to bury Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael do it together. So it is possible to restore covenant, even if it looks different than the original.

I cannot end on a happy or particularly uplifting note. I just don’t have it in me. Maybe it’s the same for some of you. So I’ll end with the words of Theodore Parker, 19th century Unitarian minister:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight, I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends….