Of Smoke and Words
Where to even start. First it was COVID-19. That was enough on its own. Then George Floyd’s murder. Then helicopters all day and into the night, and Lake and Minnehaha being burned and looted. So many businesses closed or gone. Target. Cub. The Post Office. Third Precinct. The Bank. Ghandi Mahal and all of those businesses. Aldis. Minnehaha Liquors. The gas stations. Walgreens. Car X. The old Dennys and all. All down Lake Street. Protests. Looting. Arson. Gun shots. Smoke drifting into our yard, our house, stuck in my clothes, for several days. Broken windows. Sirens. No sirens.
Many wonderful initiatives. Food banks and the like. A lot of people helping where needed. How long will that last? How long until the struggling businesses and neighborhoods are back on their own again? If ever.
And that is not even what this is all about. It is about the killing of George Floyd, the blatant racism in the police department, the city, the country, the world. Systemic racism, built into the way everything works. In each of us. In me.
Too much to take in. Maybe J said it well this afternoon. Trauma. Numbness, enough to make it impossible to know what anyone, what I am feeling or thinking.
And then there are so many words. So many admonitions, suggestions, “meaningful” quotes, “confessions,” comments and “answers,” articles, news releases, unknown media sources, questionable/inaccurate facts or lies, great leadership, total lack of national leadership, unmarked SUVS with no license plates in our n’hood, theories, gasoline or kerosene in water bottles rumored in various places, nightly n’hood patrols, instructions to fill your tub with water, leave your first floor lights on all night, have your yard hose ready, be ready to bang on pots if you see something, have a bag with things ready to go.
I walk many, many steps each day, and then I can sleep.
Once again there are too many words for me. I can’t take it in and I get stuck watching it. And I am tired of all the stuff people seem to know and need to share, need to pontificate about, sound smart about.
Because I don’t. I don’t know. What comes back to me are all of the stories I have heard over the years. All of the people I know who have told them to me. What I’ve seen on the streets. What I have never experienced. The media and articles and essays are not what have caused change in me. It’s the people who have shared their lives with me. They have made it real. I have been fortunate. Their honesty with me has been an amazing, painful gift.
I feel like I’m at least a few steps ahead of many of the people I know. Trinity and Cedar-Riverside have provided that for me. I like to think I have used some of that well, have become a bit more aware, have done a bit more of “the work.” But there is so much more to do. And it’s not the kind of thing anyone can tell others. Each person’s journey is its own way. We need to listen to black people though, not each other.
Bob, Noah, and Micah have begun a conversation around all of this. I am part of it, but they are much more cerebral than I am. I will be a part of it, will listen and will offer what I can.
As I drove up and parked here, next to the creek, a man in a house across the street kept an eye on me. I am assuming that because I am white (and small) he didn’t feel threatened. If I were black, would he have called the police?
I know some of the fear the blacks have experienced. There has rarely been a time when I have not wondered if I, as a small woman, was safe when walking alone. I don’t walk alone at night and there are places I won’t walk. When I see someone coming, I wonder if they intend harm, unless they’re older and smaller than me. There is a difference, I think, but what? I do experience a lot of privilege for sure.
I’ve heard myself say a number of times, “What? Sorry, I didn’t hear you, I have this mask on.” Just a sign of how everything has made it hard, if not impossible, to be present. In the present. To think and feel and to speak. And to listen and hear. Which is sad. Listening is one of the first steps in the work that needs to be done.
Original journal entry date: 6/4/20
©Jane Buckley-Farlee, 2020. All rights reserved.
At less than 4'11'' a pastor and the congregation she serves practice radical hospitality in a primarily Muslim neighborhood.