Friday, October 7, 2016

A Meditation: Black Lives Matter

Illustration by Vectorstock, Malchev, Andrew Glencross.
 
By Andrea and Frank Lesko
 
We invite you to join us in a virtual (but real) social media prayer and meditation.
 
We'd like you to get comfortable wherever you are--at your desk, on the subway or at home. And quiet.
 
Put yourself in the presence of God. Or rather, acknowledge that you are already there.
 
We're going to say something, and we'd like you to sit back and think about what comes to your mind when you hear it.
 
Close your eyes and begin to be aware of your breath.
 
Allow your breaths to become deeper and deeper until you can feel them down in your belly. 
 
After a bit, allow your breathing to come back to normal.
 
As you breathe in, imagine your are taking  in peace and love - imagine them as feelings or as words, or however they form in your mind's eye.
 
As you breathe out, imagine your thoughts and worries and preconceptions being exhaled.
 
Sit with this for a few moments - breathing in and out. 
 
Now I am going to give you a phrase. Allow your clear head to simply feel or think whatever comes to mind when you hear it.
 
There is no right or wrong.
 
Just allow your thoughts and feelings to be.
 
The phrase is... Black Lives Matter.
 
Remember to continue to breathe in deeply,
 
And breathe out.
 
***
 
Allow some time to sit with this thought.
 
What comes up for you?
 
How does it feel in your body when you hear the words?
 
Joys, pains, memories.
 
Be aware of any tensions, reflexes, resistance.
 
Suspend any judgments, conclusions or distractions, but take notice if you want to react in that way.
 
Just let the thoughts be. 
 
Try to avoid leaving the topic and jumping elsewhere.
 
This is not about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. 
 
This is not about "All lives matter." 
 
It's just the expression that black lives--in their own right--matter. 
 
Just experience it.
 
***
 
Maybe it's awkward to you,
 
Maybe you want to wiggle away and change the subject.
 
Perhaps your breathing immediately becomes more shallow.
 
Ask yourself where is that coming from?
 
***
 
It's perfectly normal to have biases and prejudices. Even people who believe they are beyond having prejudices probably have some subtle angst or awkwardness in relation to somebody. There has probably never been a human who didn't grow up with some kind of bias against somebody--except Jesus.
 
Whether it's the rednecks in town, the "dumb Polak" down the street, "them Jews", homosexuals, hippies, blacks, you name it.  We all got somebody that we just can't stand... and perhaps hate. If you are in a minority population, you might even pick up the sentiments of the larger population and have a bias against your own group! You can say it's part of human nature. It's tribalism--we stick with our tribe and have an implicit bias against the others.
 
Jesus challenged this continuously through the Gospels. He kept approaching people as fully equal, human persons. It didn't matter if they were rich or poor, popular or unpopular, whether they smelled funny, were sick, or were a member of the "unapproved" groups of the day. He developed quite a reputation for hanging out with "sinners and tax collectors." For a Jewish male to associate with a Samaritan woman, for example, especially someone who was known publically as "sinful," was to incur scandal upon scandal.  It's hard for us to image for us today just how scandalous that was. 
 
That Jesus could do this so consistently, without a hint of prejudice recorded in the Gospel narratives, is perhaps more evidence for his divinity than any other miracle! Humans just have a really tough time with that, and we've never met a person would could do it as consistently and constantly as Jesus did in the Gospel narratives.
 
We can and should be held accountable if we hurt people through our biases and prejudices, but we can at least have some compassion for having them. We inherited many of them. We are soaked in a culture that is full of them, some of them so subtle--yet strong--that we don't even realize we have them. They are just part of the fabric of life--birds fly, fish swim and black people are second class. It can take a lifetime to untangle oneself from a culture rife with them. 
 
There's a paradox. Shaming yourself for these thoughts is not likely to be helpful.  But those are also thoughts that need to be purged and healed so that you can grow into the being God made you to be and that we all can grow together in peace and harmony as one human family.
 
The problem becomes much more urgent when our biases and prejudices are combined with institutional power. This is what we call racism. That's when these prejudices are not just quirks that individual people have, but they are put into practice and damage real people.
 
Police can gun black men and children down in the streets over the most questionable behavior, with almost no consequences whatsoever. Black people go to jail more often--and with harsher sentences--than white people for the same behaviors. When people take to the streets to protest, they are tear gassed and silenced--how dare they speak up and question the way things are! 
 
Even justice-minded white people, who thought racism was yesterday's news, are coming to terms with this.  How did we miss it?
 
***
 
Black lives matter.
 
Black people matter.
 
This is a good thing.
 
Let’s breathe into this thought.
 
If it's a frail idea to you, build it up. Give it roots. 
 
Give it strength.
 
If it is strong, imagine it stronger.
 
***
 
Let's think about the goodness of black people.
 
Created in the image and likeness of God.
 
Who show us something about what God is like.
 
For far too long, they have been treated like their lives don’t matter. Like they don’t deserve time and attention.
 
To quickly change a discussion from “black lives matter” to “all lives matter” only reinforces what many believe in the first place: That black lives do not deserve special time and attention reserved only for them.
 
So let's change that.
 
***
 
When people say, "black lives matter," they are affirming what is rightfully theirs. 
 
They are not demanding it. 
 
They are not asking for your permission.
 
You can’t give them value--their value comes from the Creator. 
 
They are affirming what God said: "And it was good."
 
So very, very good.
 
Black lives matter.
 
***
 
Black lives matter.
 
Say it.
 
Love it .
 
Embrace it.
 
Suspend other thoughts.
 
Suspend the exceptions,
 
The qualifying clauses,
 
Everything else.
 
Just repeat after me:  Black lives matter.
 
Black people matter.
 
This is a good thing, a complete thought all unto itself that doesn't need any qualifiers, exceptions or footnotes.
 
It is a thought whose time has come--it is overdue, in fact.
 
God announced the goodness of black lives at the moment of Creation. We've got some catching up to do.
 
There is a time later to talk about everyone and everything else.
 
Right now, let’s just embrace the thought that black lives matter.
 
Cherish that thought and the people that go with it.
 
Amen.

 

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