In March of 1990 I had an ultrasound to determine the birth of my first child. Yes, this should have been a joyous occasion, but when I got home, I was distraught and overwhelmed.
I felt the heaviness of being a mother of a Black boy, realizing it as a blessing and a burden. I was fearful and unprepared to raise a Black man in our society. I pleaded with God to show me how to move forward.
Thankfully, he did. I started thinking and speaking positive thoughts to my unborn child. We read to him, we sang, we danced, and we spoke victory over our lives. As time went on we moved to a "safe" neighborhood to raise our children sacrificing material things to ensure they received a good education, immersed them into the arts, athletics, math pentathlons, chess games, visited colleges, taught them how to be respectful, how to be polite, and how to smile often so you don’t appear to be threatening.
We did all that society demanded we do and more just to be considered normal human beings.
That consideration also known as tolerance is where society fails and one of the main culprits that results in so many lives being taken unapologetically.
Fast forward 30 years and the coronavirus pandemic caused the world to fear: We fear
1. Our environment because of the uncontrollable threat COVID-19.
2. People because we might catch COVID-19 from them.
3. Death because we might die from COVID-19.
However, the racism pandemic causes Black people to deal with these same three issues with an added dose of fear: We fear
1. Our environment which is not safe whether we live in a poor or affluent neighborhood.
2. People because we’re prejudged by the color of our skin.
3. Death because we might die because we are dehumanized and not valued.
God intentionally sat us down to be still and reflect within because awareness comes through feeling. He then allowed the public murder of George Floyd. Hear me clearly when I say allowed because although he allowed it, he doesn’t condone it and even mourns with us.
I’m thankful that this happened during a time when people were tied to their social media accounts and news updates with nothing to do so his story didn’t get buried with the next "breaking news" story, but I’m especially grateful his mother wasn’t alive to see her son brutalized worse than a dog as he cried out to her while he was publicly murdered in the street.
Sadly, social injustice is not just found in America, it’s a global disease, one my family knows too well. On July 6 and July 7, 2017, we found ourselves caught between two different time zones, two different cultures, two different languages, two different countries, two different justice systems, and the harsh reality caused by the pain of love vs. hate when we received the worst news of our lives that our 22-year-old son Bakari had been brutally beaten to death publicly in the street by a mob of Serbian and Greek men for being asked to take a selfie with a Serbian woman.
Yes, it’s easy to look at the world today and feel discouraged seeing how fear fuels oppression and incites rage and hate, but Matthew 10:29-31 says, "But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows."
This verse reassures me we can find peace when we fear God and no one else. Overcoming fear comes when you have a double dose of Faith.
Doing good together means getting out of our comfort zones and moving past tolerance to full acceptance of one another. We need to embrace the stillness, reflect and take inventory of what’s in our hearts. We cannot continue to be desensitized by what now seems normalized.
Are you praying about your future but refusing to talk about your past? God cannot talk to us about our future until we resolve what’s haunting us from our past.
Please don’t sit idly hoping this storm will pass, as James Baldwin said, "not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
I ask you, how will your legacy impact change?
Jill Henderson is the founder of the Bakari Foundation, providing transformative travel experiences and related services for families who have lost loved ones at the hands of another. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.