Letter from the Editor
Like many people, I’ve seen what’s been happening in this country to oppress and destroy the lives of Black people as well as those in marginalized communities. I’ve seen many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color rise up against that oppression and destruction targeting their own selves and their own neighborhoods, and I’ve seen some changes in my own lifetime. Emmett Till’s murder marks the year of my birth; Dr. Martin Luther King’s Mountaintop speech marks my first awareness of the violence and destruction that is American history; President Obama’s consecutive terms mark the culmination of the dreams of so many; and even the Black Lives Matter movement marks the time when perhaps we as a nation are going to become aware of Black people as equally valued and worthy, and not simply existing.
In spite of the hints of forward progress on justice, the decades have not been easy to endure. The terrorism at Mother Emanuel Church hit me hard. While I knew of Reverend Pinckney only by reputation, I was deeply grieved at the slaughter of the saints during their time in prayer. People looking for safe harbor in their church that was the foundation of the Black church in America found no mercy. That act of terrorism brought changes where more than a few white people blinked and said, “No more.” Confederate monuments fell. The wickedness of the Confederacy in the state flags of South Carolina and Mississippi was removed.
Along the way we’ve seen so many roses growing that have been clipped in the peak of their beauty and left to be discarded: Sean Bell. Stephon Clark. Breanna Taylor. Sandra Bland. George Floyd. Alton Sterling & Philando Castile. Botham Jean . . . the list is long, but each time it was news. So many promises of change and so many calls to action. Surely people will see what’s going on in the Beloved Community. Surely white people will see the humanity of our Black friends and neighbors and be willing to change the things that need to be changed. Surely this is the moment.
Then, while I’m at my pastor’s house, while I’m in conversations with the people in my life, talking about and celebrating their hopes and their dreams, I see the chyron display the news of thirteen people shot in a grocery store in Buffalo, with ten of them dead. And I see that the killer drove for three hours to that particular store in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo where people shopped and ate and laughed and played thinking that this is their America and this is their liberty. No safe harbor for Black people in a church in Charleston. No safe harbor for Black people in the shops of Buffalo. No safe harbor for Black people at a convenience store or one’s apartment or one’s own car or . . .
Something snapped in me. The feelings weren’t even rage or anger or fury or whatever it is that drives us in reaction to injustice. They just — weren’t there. Gone not because of apathy, but because there was nothing left to give. I could do no more. I didn’t not a single reserve remaining. My energy was consumed. I was done in.
Nothing will change without people putting in the effort to make changes.
So then. Now what?
I’m emotionally and spiritually spent. I feel as if my efforts to bring racial and social justice are only decorations of good intentions, that I’ve been foolish in what I’ve done. My efforts are so little in comparison to the great and interlocking systems of oppression and destruction.
But I still know this, my friends: the work of justice is work, and the work must be done, still. It is a duty to work for love and understanding. It is still a matter of integrity to live out one’s life principles, and to consider when they are challenged whether they are primary or secondary interests. It is still worth it to keep trying.
Nothing will change without people putting in the effort to make changes. Nothing good stays without the continued focus by people to make sure that the wounds we have bound for healing have stayed healed. There is never a time when the efforts of destroyers will cease in their intent. There will always be that fight, somewhere, to resist destruction. That is just how it is in this world, whether we lay the blame upon spiritual forces of wickedness in high places or the general bent of humanity to desire the end of one another.
What we have left, my friends, is what we have always had: we have each other. We have the things we hold dear and the things we believe true. Whether we have a setback so great that we are stunned into silence and weariness or we simply encounter resistance, again and again, we still know what it is we are living for.
I haven’t given up because I haven’t given up hope. I still believe, in the moments when I feel most alone and most incompetent, that love matters.
I know that I am going to continue working for change, trying to bring liberation and freedom and that safe harbor we all need—especially our Black brothers and sisters—in and out of crises, in those places we call home, no matter where we are in our nation.
I still believe in safe harbors, my friends. I might be so very tired. But I have no other option than to press on.
Love one another.
OHF Weekly Senior Editor
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Fieldnotes on Allyship
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the routine killing of Black Americans, unprecedented numbers of people are participating in peaceful marches and demonstrations across the United States. There are many more who want get involved, for whom demonstrations are not an option. And they’re unsure what to do.
Fieldnotes on Allyship is an informal and informative guide to becoming an effective ally right where you are. Written by eighteen authors from the U.S. and around the world, this collection of essays covers four areas: 1) a history of how we as a nation got here, 2) the forces that maintain systemic racism, 3) preparing to serve as an ally, and 4) serving as an ally.
This anthology, with an introduction by anti-racism educator and author Tim Wise, presents a different way forward: a vision in which we acknowledge, support, and celebrate the humanity in all of us. Available in print, and for Kindle, Nook, and iPad.
Top photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash