Content note: police murder of Black children
This is a thank you letter and a love letter too. We came to this community almost a decade ago because my then-first grader, for his MLK Day “I have a dream” assignment said that no one should have to pay for food or water and I thought “Yikes! If this kid is going to be a communist, then I need to make sure he’s grounded in non-violence and solid theology.” Because of the theological grounding and wings that you helped give him, he’s become a passionate and effective activist and a deeply involved leader among his peers and the wider community. I expect he will stand for causes important to our faith community, like anti-racism and environmental justice throughout his life. So thank you. My momma heart is filled with gratitude. What I also expect is that he will be attacked for his stances, his words, and his actions, like many who choose to fight for what is just. However, I wasn’t quite expecting it now, figuring it might wait til college. He’s currently facing some well-organized backlash from county residents for his outrage over police murders of Black and brown people. (Learn more here, here, and here.)
Alex was in sixth grade when Tamir Rice was murdered by the police and that murder made an impact on him. I remember he came to me after he learned about it. He told me that he did not want his friends to be killed. I was heartbroken and sick with fury to understand that he already knew enough about systemic racism to understand that his Black friends were at risk and he, as a privileged white child, was much less so. I recognize my privilege in having that realization. It was one of those foundation-shaking parenting moments where you realize that, if it were only in your power, you would reshape the entire world for all of our children, so that no child ever has to ask his mom to make sure his friends don’t get shot by police, so that no child is ever killed by police again, so that no Black parents ever have to have “The Talk” with their children, especially their sons, ever again. We have been deeply involved in UUCC’s efforts to support Black Lives Matter ever since.
We have been taught from our church pulpit that Black Lives Matter, that intersectional feminism is real and important, that we must undo our own prejudices to build a better world, and that we will do so. But more importantly, we have been taught that systems of racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism exist and harm people and must be dismantled for us to build an actual Beloved Community. We have been taught that Justice is what Love looks like in public. We have been taught that all of us need all of us to make it. We have been taught by example that vulgar language is sometimes the best response to obscenities like oppressions and injustices. Vulgar language and organizing. And so we do both.
Alex attended HoCo for Justice’s Black Lives Matter rally this summer and heard Ms. Gina Best speak about the horrific murder of her daughter, India Kager, by the Virginia Beach police. Her rage and grief are deep, profound, and completely appropriate. He was deeply affected by her. He tweeted thanks to her for speaking and shared hashtags used to express solidarity with that rage and grief and in support of the abolition movement. He is now being lambasted by adults, who are apparently upset because of his word choices.
So thank you, UUCC, and I love you, because you have been such a crucial part in forming this particular amazing young person, like you have with several other young people.
That leads me to this message for our wider community. If you’re going to wring your hands over a couple of “fucks” and maybe an occasional “damn” instead of over racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, ableism, (list incomplete), then just step out of the way. We’re trying to build a better world here.
If you think it is more effective to wring your hands over a teenager’s word choices rather than the obscenities that he’s appropriately furious over, you and I have a difference in morality.
If you think that a generation of children who grew up hearing every year about extrajudicial murders of their classmates and agemates by police would not have become radicalized, you and I have a difference in perspective.
If the names Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a murdered second grader, and Tamir Rice, a murdered middle schooler, and Trayvon Martin, a murdered high schooler, did not vastly impact your consciousness like it did my teenager’s and other teenagers’, then you do not understand why swearing to express rage and grief is appropriate.
If you think that watching Emma Gonzalez read furiously from her AP Gov notes, and then taking AP Gov the next year isn’t seared into their souls, you are simply ignoring the realities in front of you.
And I get it. For years, I ignored these realities. I was never challenged to question my own privilege. But because of you, and the supreme blessing to be the parent of a fiercely and unrelentingly principled, passionate child, I cannot ignore realities while benefiting from white supremacy. It is unconscionable to do so, and it costs our neighbors their lives.
We’re building a better world here—come join us.