Your Prayers are Now Empty – A Parable

Picture of names of Black people killed by police. Photo credit Heidi Schillinger, Equity Matters

You prayed “Help us end this racial strife. Help us find peace.” What I heard between your prayers was “help me go back to my version of normal, where I can feel ‘safe.’” Your safety is not my concern. You are safe. You are safely isolated from the experiences of others. But if you must pray this let me share some history.

If children are our hope and future, you had your prayers answered in 1960. I said, “You shall have integrated schools, where children can learn beside each other and from each other.” I provided you with legislation, Brown v. Board of Education. A brave child, Ruby Bridges, stepped forward to integrate a school, and many other brave children followed. You continue to use education as a weapon and separator. You create special schools, youth programs and sports teams that are segregated – but you still say “But I’m a good person because there are two Black children in my school and we donate to the PTA.”

Picture people protesting with Black Lives Matter and “How Many Weren’t on Video” signs. Photo credit Heidi Schillinger, Equity Matters

“How can this be! Help us,” you prayed when a 17 year old Black teen was murdered wearing a hoodie and walking. You prayed, “How did that happen? Why? He was a kid.” You didn’t listen as Black people rallied, protested, sent petitions calling for gun reform laws. The President of the United States (the real one not the current one) even spoke up saying “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” He even gave you suggestions about how to change local laws – one person, even the President couldn’t do the heavy lifting – you needed to step up but didn’t. You explained it away as “it was one bad person who shot him.” You didn’t listen again and again as more Black people were killed, many at the hands of law enforcement — Eric Garner, Charlena Lyles, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile. The list of names continues to grow, Say Their Names is more than a hashtag. How many more deaths will it take for meaningful change to happen?

“Protect us ALL,” you cried because “All Lives Matter.” The Black Lives Matter movement started and you worried about giving up your comfort and sense of protection. You got down on your knees, some of you prayed upward to heaven, others bowed their heads and said “I believe in Black people. I like them. But what about my life? Do I not matter to them too?” As the one you pray to in times of need, I was disheartened at your and inability to independently think – do you only watch FOX News? Black creators are out there to counter the hatred and myopic views spewed by a few, but you only listened to your inner circle. Black authors and artist explained anti-Black racism over and over again — Ibram X. Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jesmyn Ward, Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, and so many others. Heaven help us, even Michelle Obama wrote and narrated her own book to help you understand the Black experience.

In 2016 America had an election. I gave you ample warning. There were many who stepped forward to run for office. You had choices. You chose the one who showed the most hatred towards everyone, especially Black and Brown people, immigrants, LGTBQ, Muslims, and on. Some of you will say, but I didn’t vote for him. You may not have, but ask yourself how did you allow him to become President? What have you done recently to condemn his words? You have another chance in 2020 to make better choices, will you use them?

I heard your prayers and now you must hear my words – Black Lives Matter. Black people are your neighbors, your colleagues, your teachers and doctors, your children’s classmates. Value their lives as much as you value your own. Stop praying for answers, you have the answers all around you. Instead of praying for someone else to solve your problems, be reflective and think for yourself. Stop wasting time and energy with things that make only you feel good. This is about the prayers from Black mamas and their children, not you and your petty Instagramable documentation that you were there or you put up a yard sign declaring your allegiance but on the side you allow racism to prevail.

No one can make you value or believe in Black lives, only you can. If you value Black lives, you must act – put your body on the line for Black people, put your money where it matters by investing in Black people and Black owned businesses, teach your children to be anti-racist, call out others who preach anti-Black hatred, vote because Black breath depends on it.


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