BY CHLOE BECKER | July 13, 2020
Before I start, I want to explicitly state that I am white and fully acknowledge my white privilege in writing this. This is not a self-centered cry of white guilt, but of loss, attempting to be in solidarity with all those mourning the destruction caused by racism. This is also not meant to take up the space of others’ anger—especially the anger and voices of Black people. I’m simply tired of white people being silent from fear of saying “the wrong thing.” I own this piece and all its mistakes and ignorance. I truly hope my words don’t hurt anyone, but will gladly welcome criticism if they do. I want to be held accountable so that I can do better in the future. I am more concerned about growing in my anti-racism than I am with trying to perfectly prove I’m not racist.
This is just my personal attempt at following the format of the psalms in a modern context in order to spend genuine time contemplating racism with God. I acknowledge that I cannot help but be at a place of divine blame, although this does not reflect my theology of God’s unwavering goodness. I am honest with God, and want to display here my shortcomings in being clouded by anger. Finally, I don’t know what this psalm is for. I wrote it as a private prayer to challenge myself and ask for the wisdom, prudence, empathy, and creativity needed to make real change. My hope is that maybe others can be positively impacted by being inspired to reflect and pray in this format about racism as well. My feelings are not what are important and should not be uplifted; I encourage you to read the thoughts and perspectives already shared by Black voices instead. I don’t have answers, but I’m sick of being a part of white silence.
They say it all started with him; God, You and I both know that’s not true.
Breonna Taylor and Tamir Rice and Rodney King and Emmett Till.
And more and more and more and more and more and more.
How could countless lives be treated so flippantly, aggressively, callously?
I’m asking how!
How could this cycle carry on for so long that it became a cycle?
I’m asking how, but I know how.
Dehumanization: Black lives are not—and have never been—seen as fully human.
It’s why I was appalled, but not surprised, when a video spread of a Black man pinned by a cop’s knee.
Like an animal.
How could that be the way someone takes their last breath?
Why didn’t you step in when he squirmed and said “I can’t breathe”?
No one else could step in and call the police, because they were already there, doing the killing.
You were the only one who could stop it,
But you didn’t.
But you didn’t with so many more too.
So many Black lives stolen, mistreated, humiliated, bruised, mocked, discredited, limited,
And you didn’t do anything.
I guess this is humanity’s responsibility—not Yours—but I can’t help from forgetting all my beliefs of the divine and accusing You.
So I’m brooding here, bitterly blaming You because slavery’s dehumanization has not faded, only shape-shifted,
And I have the privilege to ignore this fact when I so please.
To ignore is a grievance that makes me so close to ripping all my hair out.
The blatant ignorance of those who refuse to listen, see, and feel the realities of Black Americans,
Who believe that racism was solved back in the sixties,
Who think George Floyd’s death was an isolated incident with a few “bad apple” cops.
I am sickened by the lack of empathy those stances require.
The subtle ignorance of those who stopped supporting Black Lives Matter the moment a fire was lit,
Who flood my news feed with patronizing speeches denouncing rioting and looting and destruction instead of the reasons why,
Who will post on Instagram but back down when difficult conversation with family starts.
I’m mad at the ignorant complacency of White Americans on all levels, because it’s the sole reason why the dehumanization of Black Americans is normalized.
And although I try to resist, I’m very much a part of it.
It doesn’t matter which cop pulled the trigger; every brutal death of a Black American was committed by White people clasping their hands over their ears, muffling truth from making its way in.
Ignorance allows for that to repeat.
And so God, that makes me very mad,
Because ignorance is slow to dissipate.
It’s a wound that has festered and burned for centuries—and for who knows how many more.
My natural optimism is no longer applicable, because there is no evidence that all these calls, petitions, donations, posts, protests, and conversations will make immediate extensive change.
My heart knows they are significant, but logic tells me that healing is far off.
That life will not be drastically different in a year.
Which means there will be more Black lives stolen, mistreated, humiliated, bruised, mocked, discredited, limited.
Please let that not be true!
Why does change have to move so leisurely?
Please let that not be true.
God, I don’t know why I’m telling You all of this.
I’ve always thought of rage as the antithesis of Love,
So I don’t know why I’m expecting You to reply with a seething cry greater than mine and all those with outrage deeper than my own.
No—that can’t be true.
Jesus fumed and erupted as he flipped tables in the Temple.
It was an anger of love.
This is my anger of love.
I trust You are incarnate somewhere in this love—despite its gritty form.
God of justice? Of peace? Of kinship?
How many times have I proudly called You these names?
They seem now like past delusions I cling to as I cry out in prayer, aching for them to be true.
When has there ever been justice? Been peace? Been kinship?
I don’t even feel a bit of sympathy from You as simply “God”.
This week’s serene skies, vibrant nature, and symphony of birds only feel, to me, like Your indifference.
Why don’t I feel You raining down wrathful tears with me instead?
I’ve confronted You—through chills of outrage and a pit of dread—not knowing what to say, but saying it.
I hope that You’ve been listening.
I know You are.
[Read the companion reflection, Black Lives Matter: A Psalm of Lament and Sorrow, here.]
Chloe Becker is an incoming first-year at Harvard University, from Cleveland, Ohio. Last year she painted a mural at her high school school to strengthen the Catholic Church’s voice against racism, which gained attention over social media and was published in an article in America Magazine. She spoke at the 2019 Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, and is currently finding ways to continue working towards racial justice through art.