Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Song that Requires a Symphony of Lives to Play It and an Entire World to Sing It

Chris and Carol Green respond to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd

There’s a lot of noise right now; a lot of noise; a lot of screaming. There are screams of pain, screams of anguish, screams of vengeance and retaliation, screams of mocking, screams of silence. I don’t like getting caught up in a lot of the noise.

For some of us, our silence doesn’t mean we’re complicit. Have you ever seen that person at the funeral who cries, but no sound comes out? They shake and convulse. They sob. But they don’t wail or scream. That’s me. My silence is pain that’s so deep, that it has no sound.

So I had to pull back before I spoke, because I wasn't interested in merely adding to noise, but to contribute to a specific sound. It’s a sound with a frequency that is beyond the human ear, and heard only by the heart. It's a sound that comes from not only pain, but from prayer, and being in God's presence. I have to worship before I speak. So now I speak.

One of our spiritual daughters (from St. Louis, MO) sent me a message this morning and said she noticed that I hadn’t said anything (publicly) about the latest police killings. I must confess that I have been so triggered that it was best for my wife and I to not say anything because we were just filled with pain and rage.

For a couple of days, I posted and re-posted all kinds of stuff on social media, but one night me and one of my sons had dreams on the same night, and I felt like God was telling us that we needed to go back and delete all that stuff and regroup. So we did.

There’s nothing else I can say that hasn’t already been said. I was sickened; I was overwhelmed by it all. It was too much, too back to back. It was a rapid fire punch, punch, punch, slam! I couldn’t breathe. Before we learned what George Floyd had said, we had all experienced it. We literally could not take another breath. We collectively, could not breathe.

It brought back everything: The last few years of police shootings; the last 52 years of futility, since Dr. King’s death. It brought back the years of our parent’s Civil Rights struggle. It brought back the cruelty of the years of my sharecropper grandparents. I say that for those who say that this was all a long time ago. But you don’t understand. For many of us, our grandparents, and certainly our great-grandparents were alive when Harriet Tubman died. It’s not ancient, forgotten history. It is the substance that is part of the sub-atomic material that makes up the DNA of the African American soul.

So when I say that we collectively could not breathe, you better believe that there are those who read what I just wrote and tears filled their eyes, because that’s what hit us, all over the United States. It’s not an ancient history. It’s an embedded soul-and-spirit-memory connection that knows no time and no distance.

It's an implicit PTSD response to:
246 years of official slavery (1619 - 1865)
99 years of Jim Crow Laws (1865 - 1964, and I was born in 1959)
86 years of Lynching (1882 - 1986) Did you get that? 1986
14 Years of Fighting for Civil Rights (1954 - 1968)
52 years of systemic incarceration and ravaging of Black families through government programs. (1968 - 2020)
401 years of Oppression (1619 - 2020)

And then there is the empirical evidence of shared experience. Black people from all walks of life, who have never met one another, have expressed, almost word-for-word, the same experiences. No one got together in a forum and put together a narrative that we would spread across the country like news reporters all reading from the same page. This is pure empirical evidence.

The problem with communication is that I have 12 different things that I need to say, all at the same time. I should be talking about my Faith in Jesus Christ and my commitment to the Kingdom of God. I should be talking about the need for love and hope in the midst of chaos. But I can only address one thing at a time. So bear with me and forgive me for what I failed to say, and just give me a minute to finish the Book my wife and I are writing right now, and then you can have at it. I can only say one thing at a time.

Today is just the introduction; the opening musical notes of a song that requires a symphony of lives to play and an entire world to sing.

The unrehearsed, collective words my sons, nieces and nephews have used have been these: “We are angry and we’re hurt. We don’t need your opinion. We don’t need your judgment. We’re just hurt.” They were not looking for sympathy or pity. They had been expecting at least a small measure of empathy. And they were shocked to learn that a lot of their White friends, co-workers, and even classmates, going back to high school, had no empathy for them.

I would ask if you would bring judgment into a conversation with a hurting friend, but I now realize that some of you would. You’d do the same with your own friends and family. You’d have no compassion, no respect and no empathy for them either.

So, many things have been stirring in us the last few days. We are people of Faith. We are people of Peace. We try to always choose wisdom's way. And now I'm getting to what we feel at liberty to say.

Carol and I wrote a speech a few years ago (2017). We shared it with an audience that was predominantly White. We were invited by two White gentleman with whom we shared a bit of our story, and they were willing to take the risk to have us share it with their supporters.

It's a speech about the value of listening to others and understanding others, and we invite you to that table to dine today.

Here is that speech: