I feel so full for my city,
even as a massive wound has been lanced and pain spills into the streets.
Charlotte is bleeding sorrow and anger and frustration and confusion.
over the disease of unseeing.
I grieve for the lives lost and silenced
because of a systemic blindness that builds fearful walls instead of seeing grace.
I feel again the white hot tears that I tasted when my own sons were shoved down on gravel
on an empty stretch of highway while police officers grabbed their tender wrists into cuffs.
They were the right color but the wrong flavor
for the rural tastes of the small nearby town that they didn’t skirt far enough
to join their friends in a field for an air soft game after school.
Their windows down, long hair flying and music turned up high on a lone country road,
my youngest, 14, twirls his toy gun absentminded in the passenger seat
as a passerby phones in a false alarm.
Within minutes they are pulled by shouting authorities with guns drawn
who mistake my youngest son’s neurology for defiance.
He does not process quickly the clamor and shouting,
is bewildered why they have him on the ground.
In the chaos, neither of my sons are seen.
I bristle at the condescending severity of the voice on the line
who asks if I’m a parent who know my kids are carrying guns.
Can’t you even see the plastic orange tip on the end of the thing, I growl
– of course I know where they’re going and my throat goes dry as I struggle to explain.
I bite down hard the angry stream of words that rises up inside,
fearing for my teenage sons who are still in their hands.
But they will come home to us that day.
No one is shot and I don’t bear in my being
a long history dark that has scarred my emotional DNA
toward badges and the people who wear them.
I know this is only a taste.
We call and arrange a face to face with the officers for early next day
-we want to make them see.
My husband and I sit across a wide table lined with defensive faces.
Their patronizing slowly turns to understanding as our quiet voices begin to paint
what they didn’t see.
We wrestle down our own defenses and lean forward to see the people behind the mistake.
We can feel the vast expanse between us come together
as we let our hearts go wide.
I was proud of us all as we stayed in that place
until peace was made.
And now my heart pulses hot grief for the man who was shot in my city this week.
Maybe plastic orange tips are harder to see when a black hand holds them,
or when a black man is too rattled to comply.
Was he just the wrong color or flavor? I don’t know.
Won’t pretend to know the whole of his story.
Or of the young black officer who felt pressed to pull the trigger.
But the wound of years of injustice
~For the man who was shot down and for his family – for the all too many families before.
~For the man who felt forced to drop him.
~For those grieving another officer buried just this week
because he served a warrant to a hopeless man with a loaded gun.
~For those uniformed men who do abuse their authority and act out their distrust and fear.
~For my neighbor whose piercing wail still haunts me
because her son has been shot by a cop who must mow down her boy
because he waves a gun, wanting to die.
~For the shaking and horrified officer whose job required him to oblige.
~For my black friend who hints that my white life must be charmed
in a way that says she doesn’t see me.
~For the places where racism hides still inside of me – places where I, too, don’t really see.
For all of the wounds of the unseen.
I see you, Charlotte.
And even now I’m so proud of my city.
Of the healers and seers and helpers and peace-makers
that you won’t see on TV or a facebook feed.
But unless you see them,
you haven’t seen my city.
We are those who protest peaceful and work to see and respect the people behind the badges
even while we show up to let our stories speak.
We are tender-hearted public servants who fight back tears even while standing tall
to protect and keep safe the all of us,
making space for expression of people in pain.
We are many standing humble together to build
more than those who come to tear down,
than the empty-eyed inciters who have traded in their their humanity
to bleed out hopelessness, like infection, in our streets.
The healers and seers and helpers and peace-makers are of more powerful stuff,
living antibodies more potent than the poison can survive.
Healing is happening in my city.
“Means we use must be as pure as the end we seek.”
– Martin Luther King
Thank you for coming by to have a read.
For being a witness.
Your company here is bread and wine to me.