I grew up in a Motown home. I can’t remember a month when my father was not playing or singing some song from Hitsville. It was a music tradition which shaped me. Songs which more powerfully yesterday than today reflected on the situation of America and her citizens of color. One of the teacher’s my father introduced me to was Marvin Gaye.
Today Marvin still teaches me. Teaches me to think about myself. He teaches me to look deeply at our current society and practice my own inner city blues.
Crime is increasing,
Trigger happy policing
Panic is spreading
God knows where
Losing a loved one can be devastating under the conditions of poor health. The loss of a loved one can be greatly compounded when there is the strong possibility of injustice accompanying the human experience of death.
How do you lose your life when you have done everything right? Graduate college. Secure a good paying job. Serve your community. How can I make sense of the reality a young man did what society says is required to succeed and still…lose his life.
Maybe my own confidence in those who police is being taken from me. Panic is spreading. Is not my anxiety justified? Are the emotions I feel when I see a patrol car real. Panic is spreading. I wonder if those who serve and protect us actually serve themselves and protect their own at taxpaying expense. Panic is spreading. Maybe it will matter when they come for you. When they seek to find a way to justify the loss of your life as your fault and not their own.
I don’t know where we are heading but God knows. Somehow Marvin had hope.
Oh, make me wanna holler
They don’t understand
Make me wanna holler
They don’t understand
There is a sense people live in an alternative reality and it makes me question my own mental health. Can we really be imagining these phone calls, the recorded events of police interactions, and voices which silently whisper, “You are still a second class minority.”
Illusions are the onset of some form of mental anxiety. The images and sensations of perceived realities. Maybe all of this is an illusion. The words of “We the People” appear to be illusive transcriptions of a dream. This song which rings loudly of a place where there is a land and home of free brave persons is nothing more than a whispered rumor. A wind which many of us have a difficult time to grasp.
This makes me wanna holler. Loss and illusions make me wanna to scream in a society which uses materialism, prosperity, and violation to drown out my cries. Losing friends because of foolish arguments about politics. Losing long held relationships because country triumphs of
Where are we going? Do people hear my hollering about our losses and the impending panic because I don’t think we know where we are going.
The irony is as I write this, I mean holler, I don’t think many want to understand. But God understands and God knows. So I think Jeremiah who practiced his own inner city blues would stand side by side with Marvin.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning: great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:21-23)
*Words from Marvin Gaye’s, “Inner City’s Blues”
Growing up in Southern California I became used to living an unsettled way of life. While early in my life I was accustomed to fire drills, moving to California exposed me to a drill and disruption, earthquake drills. Periodically in my public and private school life the alert sounded to get under the desk.
These drills and posturing one’s self in the fetal position did not become real until I finally experienced the rolling of my home during an earthquake. It is quite an event to feel the ground under your feet roll or the building you stand in move with reverberation. There is movement. There is sound. Then all is still and quiet.
Earthquakes shake you out of a sense of normalcy. The life you understood as being solid, static, and serene, offers you very little confidence moving forward. There are earthquakes which cause you to pause for a moment and then there are those movements which challenge your very life existence.
I reflect on my own life to cultivate sympathy for my Caucasian brothers and sisters in America. Their life, no your life, has been founded on some very explicit and implicit understandings about life. The road you have walked on for generations is a pavement which affirms and holds up as the standard, Caucasian life. Explicitly, we have seen in our public school education the dominance of Caucasian males as the center of leadership in the public and private sectors. You have learned explicitly this country began as an act of rebellion and protest due to taxation, military occupation of homes, and unjust acts of a sovereign. Implicitly, after the securing of freedom in 1776, every sphere of this country’s existence framed itself in extolling the virtues of your life, judging every other participant as secondary, the minority. I mean even when I attend Church I am reminded Jesus looks like you. Everywhere you go, what you listen to, and yes, the standard of worship is measured against your Caucasian life as the standard.
So I find myself sympathizing with you because I love you. I sincerely believe you are experiencing periodic earthquakes in your lives which are upsetting the normalcy of the Caucasian standard in America. Much like the child in school, I observe your reaction to the tremors and aftershocks is to run and find comfort under a desk which may not hold up at the end of the day. Your reaction is to assume the fetal position and in some cases rage passively or aggressively against those who are simply seeking to secure the promises of democracy.
What earthquakes do I speak about? The Mexican man, woman, or family returning to their ancestral home. The earthquake of voices steadfastly saying that Black Lives Matter. The earthquake of persons of color moving more boldly to assert their dignity as full participants in this democratic experiment called America. The rumblings of the poor in urban areas tired of being used by politicians. These aftershocks which are moving from worship centers to worship centers, your Evangelical Reformed or Baptist voice is not the standard of Christian thought and practice.
So I sympathize with you. I truly do. Love cultivates sympathy. In order to sympathize with a person or group is to imagine yourself in their shoes and love them right there. I sympathize because I know first hand what it means to have my own world shook because of what I look like. I sympathize because in many cases you have been taught wrong or not been taught everything.
There is movement happening in this country. There are sounds of voices yearning to be free. I hope when all is still and quiet you will come up from out of that desk and discover there is a better way of living.
Martha Nussbaum who writes on the human experience and capabilities, states, “When comparing societies and assessing them for their basic decency or justice, we ask, “What is each person able to do and to be?” We are not means to an end, human beings are the end. There are a multitude of situations which function as barriers at the social, economic, and political level slowing or in some cases stopping human beings from seeing who they truly are and what they can truly accomplish.
Persons in a variety of societal environments play a critical role in either creating barriers or tearing down barriers for persons who are to be considered neighbors. In essence we have a responsibility to each other and we have been granted the opportunity to address life which Nussbaum describes as being “entrenched with social injustice and inequality.”
Engaging in the difficult work of identifying existing barriers requires persons with different perspectives to engage with one another. We can admittedly observe our current climate has produced situations in which people have chosen to assume tribal behaviors, boundaries marked by political ideology, national origins, ethnicities, and yes, even faith.
If our goals are to build an environment to improve the situations of other persons, relieve personal and systemic injustices, and create an environment for successive generations, we must have plans which begin with the end in mind. In other words, humanizing and just outcomes necessitate humanizing and just means.
In the words of Nussbaum, we are capable of such activity in the support of problem of solving many our societal concerns, if we choose to practice them on a daily basis.