On July 8th, I wanted to scream at a little kid on the subway. Usually, I love kids. I have been babysitting since I was ten years old. My first job out of college was as a youth leader. I currently spend my days either working with children or planning programs so that I can work with children. I don’t even mind riding an airplane with a crying baby. I am not a person easily annoyed by the sound of a loud child, but as I sat on the subway, head tucked down, laughter and screams heard over the hum of my headphones, all I wanted to do was shout at this kid.
“Be quiet!” “Shut up!” “Stop it!” all rang through my mind, immediately followed by a second thought: “You are not okay.”
As it turns out, I’ve been hurting for about a month.
There’s probably been some low level of pain for longer than that, but I first noticed it on June 12th. Right before I left to go preach, I heard about the tragedy that happened in Orlando. After worship, I sat in my office and I thought about what happened and what it meant that it was an LGBTQ club that was targeted. I thought about what it meant that the people killed were black and brown and mostly Latinx. I thought about the fact that it was Pride month. I thought about the fact that I am a black queer person who lives in a Latinx neighborhood and likes to go to club during Pride month.
On July 5th, I woke up to see that several friends on Facebook had posted about the murder of Alton Sterling by the Baton Rouge police department. After I arrived at work, I spent the day avoiding watching the video of the incident (I can’t stomach anymore videos of black people being murdered by police) and thinking about what it meant to be killed outside of your local store. I thought about what it meant that another black man, another black person, was killed for no reason.
The next day, while trying to avoid Sterling’s video, I nearly clicked on the one of Philando Castile in his dying moments (thankfully, I did not). Once again, after I arrived at work, I spent the day avoiding two videos and thinking.
I thought about what it means to die complying with instructions given by the cops.
I thought about how everything black people are taught to do-speak slowly, calmly, and clearly, announce if you have a weapon, comply with the officer’s demands, announce your movements before making them-was not enough to save this man. I thought about the lectures and instructions on being pulled over I have been given. I thought about how I’ll soon be driving through parts of my home state of Pennsylvania that are known for their racism.
On July 8th, I woke up to hear that there had been shooting during a peaceful protest in Dallas and five police officers were dead. Having the day off, I lay in my bed and thought. I thought about quickly this was going to be turned into a black vs. blue lives issues as if to support one is to hate the other, as if someone can’t be both black and a cop.
I thought about the families of those killed and how the fear from this could cause more violence. I thought about people blaming the protesters for something they did not do and do not support. I thought about being ten or eleven years old at the viewing of my friends’ dad, a black man who was a cop killed in the line of duty.
And then I got on a subway to meet up with a friend, and I wanted to scream at a little kid.
My problem wasn’t with the kid. The kid was, for all intents and purposes, just being a kid. My problem was that this is too much. It is too much to deal with so much violence in such a short amount of time. It is too much to be constantly angry at the justice that is never served. It is too much to think that your friends, that your family, that you have to fear your own existence because you could easily become the next hashtag. None of these things happened directly to me, but it is still too much.
Maybe it’s too much for you, too. Maybe you’ve been watching all that’s been happening and are scared, too, that you might be next. Maybe the pain has been building up inside you and you don’t know when or how to release it. Maybe you’ve seen your friends around you hurting and you don’t know what to do.
In times like this, I remember the message of 1 John 4: 11-12: “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.”
The thing that kept me from screaming, that has kept me from breaking down, is love.
When friends, many of whom I have not seen in person in a while, contacted me just to ask how I was doing, they showed me love. When my white partner sat with me in quiet until I was ready to tell her how I was feeling, she showed me love. When I gave myself some time and space to not be okay, to be angry, to cry, to grieve, and to feel, I showed myself love. And in those moments, though they were imperfect and incomplete, I felt God. I remembered that God is still here.
Check in on your friends, especially the LGBTQ ones and those of color. Sit, listen, be present. Check in on yourself and let yourself feel. March if you can but also rest if you need to.
Show love. Show God. Be well.
Photo via flickr user Victoria Pickering