‘I’m actually pretty nervous to post this. I’m sorry if it’s hard.‬..This country is‬ ‪So. F******. Broken.‬’


I’m actually pretty nervous to post this, but I’m doing it now because I can already feel us letting up. I’m starting to feel the pulse of white America beginning to slow—to settle back into our comfortable, neglectful sleep. And we cannot afford to go back.

I’m about to use some language. I’m sorry if it’s hard.‬

‪This country is‬
‪So. Fucking. Broken.‬

‪I’ve got people on my right saying: It’s not broken. I’m not racist. I’ve never owned slaves. I love all people. Why are you acting like this is my fault?

Sometimes I feel like an alien. It seems so clear to me, so why doesn’t everyone else see it? That our entire system of government is undergirded by the oppression of Black people, from the very Constitution and on down. This subjugation has been here from the beginning, and it’s never left. Even the Thirteenth Amendment—an amendment explicitly written ‬to end chattel slavery—had a pressure relief valve. Just in case you really needed to keep slave-owning, you were allowed to—if the slaves you own came into their slavery by committing crimes. And so Southern white politicians started inventing crimes. “Black Codes” like loitering and “disrespect” and drinking from the wrong fountain and on and on. (https://www.history.com/news/13th-amendment-slavery-loophole-jim-crow-prisons)

With all the Founding Fathers’ talk of freedom and the pursuit of happiness, the hidden truth has always been that these were promises meant only for white people. The whole thing was built as an apparatus to give white people freedom and opportunity on the backs of Black people. And then we white folks try to pretend it’s not like that; like the tendrils of this bleak beginning are not long and don’t stretch even into today; that it’s not supremely obvious in policing statistics and sentencing statistics and prison population statistics and health care statistics and income statistics and education-funding statistics. Every facet of American life is heavily skewed to benefit white folks at the detriment of Black folks.

That’s why it doesn’t matter if you’ve never owned slaves and you aren’t a racist. We have to face our own complicity and not turn away. We have to be more than simply not-racist.

Because my mom doesn’t have to wake up every morning wondering if today will be the day that I’m choked to death in the street for “matching the description of a suspect.” Because my white friend spent six months in county jail instead of three to five years in prison for felony weed possession. Because when I go to the doctor and I need pain medicine, no one hesitates to give it to me.

That’s the reality in America. That’s white privilege. It’s not privilege because all white people are members of a golf club and eat filet mignon. It’s privilege because I don’t have to spend every day knowing that I’ll be treated as if my life means less, and my potential means less. My Black friends do. I get the privilege to breathe freely when they do not.

‪This country is‬
‪So. Fucking. Broken.‬

‪I’ve got people on my left saying: Yes, the world is broken. But only God can save us.‬

What a cop out.‬

I wish my white religious friends would look at these deflections for what they are. They’re an excuse to not have to do the work. “Only God can save us” is an attempt to absolve us of any responsibility whatsoever to try to improve our community. How many times will we stand by while a Black man cries out for his mama; cries out, “I can’t breathe”? How long can we turn our backs and say, “Only God can save you”?

How many times do we watch innocent men lynched like Jesus, and stand aside in the crowd of mockers? “Maybe he’d be alive if he simply had not resisted.” (https://www.blockislandtimes.com/affiliate-post/cross-and-lynching-tree/52473)

How long can we wash our hands like Pilate, claiming to have no power while we feast and they suffer?

Even if it’s true that only God can break this cycle—and I think at some level it is true—how do you think God will do it? Listen to James. If your faith has no substantiation in reality—if you don’t DO anything with it—then it is a dead and worthless thing.

“Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15–16).

Suppose a brother or sister is shouting in the streets for equality and justice, and you say, “All lives are equal in God’s eyes. He’s the righteous judge.” What good does that do?

No, our faith should compel us to seek to restore. We should be on the mission to bring about the Kingdom of God. We should be enflamed in our souls to right these wrongs.

Or are you like some who claim that these are signs of the end times? That all this suffering is simply a portent of our coming savior?

Don’t you see what you’re saying? That this is as it should be. That this continual loop of injustice and murder and strife is exactly how things need to be to usher in your soon-coming king. In your heart, are you truly so vicious? That you can hear the cries of George Floyd’s family and see his brother’s sobbing shoulders, and comfort yourself knowing that this is as God intended?

I watched Breonna Taylor’s mother, strength of strength, saying that she knew her daughter was meant for greatness, and that this movement of change has proven it true.

And I wept. That was surely not what she imagined when she watched her baby’s chest rise and fall, peacefully asleep in her crib. When she prayed that Breonna would be great, she could not have meant that her daughter’s brutal death would bring about change.

I can tell you, as a new dad, I don’t want my baby to die as a symbol. I just want my baby.

And yet some of my brothers and sisters can just shrug at this and claim it’s God’s will? That it’s a sign of the times? It’s the most cognitively dissonant position I can imagine. How could our good god will such an atrocity? How could you bring yourself to believe God is good if you also believe He actively made it happen?

This country is‬
‪So. Fucking. Broken.‬

But, as Andre Henry might put it, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can do the work. We can put our boots on the ground next to our Black friends and, with them, we can be the hands and feet of God. Little by little, step by step; law by law, vote by vote; talk by talk and mind by mind, we can remake it.

by Steve Matney


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