(August 25, 2020)
In the back.
While his children were present.
So many of us are demanding for justice for Jacob Blake. While we are grateful he is not another Black life lost, the quality of his life has been forever been changed due to being paralyzed from the waist down.
Additionally, the quality of his children’s life has been forever changed by witnessing this horrific act.
When, O Lord, will it end?
This tragic event occurred on Sunday, August 23. The following day marked the beginning of the US Republican National Convention (RNC) to formally nominate President Donald Trump for a second term of the highest office in the country.
Amid significant controversy, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan gave the opening prayer at the convention, doing so in order that “all might join together in seeking peace and reconciliation in our hearts, in our cities, and in our country.”
Cardinal Dolan had an opportunity to be a witness for Christ and to be a witness to the Black lives who are endangered. Instead, he prayed for “all lives,” which while seemingly innocuous, ignores the reality that All Lives Matter only once Black Lives Matter.
The cardinal, while making a general prayer for “all lives,” was able to single out and pray for police officers.
If the cardinal could pray specifically for police officers, why couldn’t he pray specifically for Black Lives?
This is especially problematic when two police officers nearly murdered a young unarmed Black man a day prior.
These officers were the very people working against the peace and reconciliation the cardinal referred to in accepting the RNC’s invitation, yet police officers are glorified as heroes while Black persons, oppressed at the hands of these “heroes,” are not even spoken of.
Despite the cardinal’s prayer, which noted that God is not partisan, Dolan appears to be partisan in singling out police officers but not Black lives.
The cardinal, therefore, undermined and discredited his own prayer, since he really didn’t pray for all lives.
The Church offered a more appropriate but problematic response from the Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jerome Listecki began his statement with a prayer of “healing for Jacob Blake and for comfort for his family and loved ones.”
The archbishop then turned the focus on the city where the tragic event occurred, Kenosha, noting that the situation “remains volatile in the wake of the shooting” and that violence “can never be the means to attain peace and justice.”
I agree with the archbishop in wanting a peaceful city after the tragedy, however this “peace” that he speaks of is founded on privilege.
While the archbishop is asking for peace to be upon the homes, the streets and the local businesses of Kenosha, the truth is Black people are not safe in their own homes, on the street, or in local businesses.
The root of the matter is not the unrest resulting from the tragic event, but the tragic event itself. Police brutality and unwarranted Black murders need to end.
As I have seen all over social media:
“Protests shouldn’t turn into riots.”
Well, arrests shouldn’t turn into murder.
Sadly and ironically, the Archbishop Listecki’s desire was not answered, and it was not violence caused by protesters but violence toward peaceful protesters.
Reflecting on President Trump’s racially-based statement “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” I posit that protests, unrest and looting would all immediately stop when police shooting comes to an end.
Therefore, when the shooting stops, the looting stops.
There is a heaviness in all of this: another unarmed Black man nearly dies due to police violence; the Church and the country provide inadequate responses; and nothing seems to be getting better.
This heaviness can lead to discouragement and fatigue.
Discouragement could be a sign of spiritual desolation, which Saint Ignatius of Loyola defines as “darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope and want of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated as it were, from its Creator and Lord” (SpEx 317).
Ignatius advises us that during the experience of desolation, it is important to “intensify our action against desolation” (SpEx 319), otherwise we can fall into a downward spiral that not only impedes our ability to work for racial justice but our ability to receive love from God and others and to respond to that love.
Resources for fighting racial injustice
With this in mind, I propose the following to lift our spirits amid the heaviness that can lead to racial injustice fatigue:
1. A Prayer of Lamentation
In Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, Black Catholic priest Bryan Massingale defines the Lament as a “profound response to suffering, one that stems from acknowledging its harsh reality… cries of anguish and outrage, groans of deep pain and grief, utterances of profound protest and righteous indignation over injustice, wails of mourning and sorrow in the face of unbearable suffering. Lamentation is a cry of utter anguish and passionate protest at the state of the world and its brokenness” (105).
Lamentation is deeply embedded in the Judeo-Christian tradition (including the Psalms and the Book of Lamentations) and provides a language to name injustice. Ultimately, lamentation “stems from and leads to deep compassion” (105).
Below is my Prayer of Lamentation:
How long O Lord will you let your children die?
Your people are shot, beaten, and regarded as worthless.
Children go without parents, and parents go without children.
Why did you let George Floyd die?
Where were you when Breonna Taylor was murdered in her own home?Where is Your justice when Jacob Blake was shot by police seven times in the back?
Are these not your children?
Do Black lives not matter?
When they are finished with Black lives, which color will they go after next?Am I next?
Is my father next?
Is my son next?
Is my unborn son next?
Did you leave Jesus on that cross?
We are your people, O Lord, and we need You.
O Lord, in my anger I cry out to you.
Be my help.
Be my guide.
Show me how to love when I can no longer love.
Show me how to fight when I no longer have strength.
Only You, O Lord can stop this.
Only You, My God, are my help.
Self-care is exactly that – taking care of one’s self. We cannot be effective in activism and defending the other if we are not nourishing our own soul and taking rest.
The Greatest Commandment stipulates a love of neighbor as one loves oneself (cf. Matthew 22:37), however one cannot truly love one’s neighbor if one is not properly taking care of oneself.
Self-care may look different for each person, but it generally involves getting enough sleep, eating and hydrating properly, taking time to pause and connect whether through prayer and meditation or a different practice, exercise, and enjoyment of creative hobbies.
We cannot work for social justice without being just and kind to ourselves.
Self-care can both prevent feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed as well as aid in overcoming these feelings.
3. Pause to connect with loved ones
Many of us engage in justice work because of the people we love. We want our family members and children to live in a just society and to be loved and treated equally.
However, our social outreach at times can inhibit our family outreach since the former involves time, engagement and emotional energy.
Therefore, in conjunction with our self-care, taking the time to be with the ones we love can renew us: to embrace our spouses or partners and other family members; and to hug, hold and play with our children.
4. Intermittent social media fasting
Social media, while a means to connect with like-minded persons and to obtain news, can also be very triggering.
A flurry of news articles related to politics or racial injustice can cause our blood pressure to rise and increase our discouragement rather than alleviate it. Additionally, online debates can also drain our already low batteries.
Intermittent fasting is a diet and health management strategy whereby one fasts for a specified number of hours 2-3 times per week.
Analogously, we can manage our spiritual and mental health by taking breaks from social media throughout the day.
This could allow us to have a clearer mind and be less anxious and triggered by what we are seeing and listening to online.
Social media dieting is a form of self-care and it allows us to better connect with our loved ones more directly.
Once there is proper soul nourishment and rest, we can return to the battlefield with renewed strength, to “weep with those who weep, march with those who march, and work alongside others to dismantle the structural inequities that result in the unwarranted murdering of Black persons as well as all of the other injustices experienced by the Black community.”