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May 31, 2020

A Mother’s Response to George Floyd

The black American psyche has been rattled once again. I tremble to think there is no end in sight.

D.H. Lawrence once wrote:

“All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play.

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.

It has never yet melted.”

As the mother of a black 12-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl, I’m scared. I worry for the brilliant black minds that are tired of qualifying their existence in this world.  How can we create solutions and flourish when the undercurrent of our very being is hate?

People and their “bootstrap theories” need to understand one thing. Depression, low self-esteem, and failure to thrive are not endemic to the black community.  They are consequences of racial trauma, and if the dominant culture continues to turn a blind eye, we may be headed to a revolt of a Watchmen nature. And I presume we’d happily elect Regina King to lead the cause.

In her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “While much psychology emphasizes the familial causes of angst in humans, the cultural component carries as much weight, for culture is the family of the family. If the family of the family has various sicknesses, then all families within that culture will have to struggle with the same malaise. In a culture where the predator rules, all new life needing to be born, all old life needing to be gone, is unable to move and the soul-lives of its citizenry are paralyzed with both fear and spiritual famine.”

Things don’t go well for any of us when a culture uses predatorial tactics that prey on weak and disenfranchised communities. This is what’s unnerving about our white friends and co-workers who fall mute in these times.  If you don’t speak up, you are equally complicit in feeding the wolf of hate. You too will live in a world that is void of civility and mutual respect. Doesn’t that shake you?

Violent protests are not ideal. But the individual experience of abuse leaves any human mind weak and susceptible to heinous acts. Add to that the cultural battering that has rendered America a scary and unpredictable place for many people, and we have the exact recipe for revolt and reactivity. We can do better by collectively attending to our own hearts and minds. How do we heal as a culture?

It starts with inward reflection and consideration of the following questions:

  • What is my place in this world?
  • How can I come from under the rule of dominant culture and practice greater compassion?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What kind of world do I want to inhabit?

A culture that heals begins to dis-identify with false narratives of people that are broken and inhumane. Not every black woman is angry. Not every black man running in a neighborhood is a threat. A healthy culture takes a beat, and considers the humanity of its people. It feeds on the imaginal cells of truth and freedom, and evolves until it can longer be ruled by deception.

As we stand witness to the events across the nation, it is critical that we check our personal values, and acknowledge the ways that trauma has driven all of us to a state of inaction.

I get it. We tread carefully in our personal lives, retreating behind our routines and daily comforts, because who likes conflict. But like Maya Angelou once said, if you’re gonna pick up the prosperity card, you must also pick up the injustice card, because one can’t rightfully exist without the other. Peace of mind is not mutually exclusive from social justice.  At least not in a true democracy.

How we treat each other – our co-workers, our neighbors, and even our adversaries translates to energy that either feeds a culture of love or a culture of hate. It’s the tiny, everyday choices we make, that shape the world we inhabit. But we must take action. I pray for a world in which black brilliant minds can thrive!

Organizations for Change:
Black Lives Matter
National Police Accountability
Advancement Project 
The Marshall Project

Books for Change:
White Fragility
Real American
A Black Woman’s History of the United States
Rising out of Hatred