We All Need Healing

This morning I walked away from a school building that was on “external lockdown.” My children were inside. What a totally counterintuitive thing to do as a parent. But this seems to be kind of a new normal.

My kids’ school is only 10 blocks from where one of two Des Moines area police officers was killed last night. The gunman was still at large. When I had walked into my daughter’s classroom at the start of the school day, my daughter, who had gotten to her classroom before I did, ran up to me, “mama, the school doors are locked because a man with a gun killed two police officers last night.”

I cannot begin to imagine what these officers’ families and loved ones are experiencing right now.

I only know part of what I am feeling.

I am feeling traces of the joy of 8 years ago this morning holding a newborn in my arms. I am feeling the jarring contrast of the weight of today: today was my daughter’s 8th birthday and it began with her talking about guns and killings.

I don’t have words for that.

As news rolled in over the course of the day about the backstory of the alleged gunman I was struck, of course, by the most recent known incident in which this suspect was involved. He waved a Confederate flag at a high school football game in front of a groups of Black students. He was escorted out as he engaged in a verbal rampage about the violation of his rights and wanting his property back. There’s more.

All I could think about was that this devastating, horrible day is one more symptom of the deep, deadly wound at the heart of this nation. Today we see that the racial violence so publicly and visibly on display in this nation since August 2014 impacts all of us. And all I can think is that our collective lives depend on seeing today’s events this way.

The violence of white supremacy always eventually consumes its own. We must understand this.

As someone who writes and who lives in public support of the movement for Black lives, I hope it is obvious I say none of this with glee. I left my babies in a school building on lockdown today. That’s a horrifying thing to do. More, I cannot begin to imagine what these officers’ families and loved ones are experiencing right now.

I am saddened, scared, sick and somber about the day’s events and the direction in which this nation is heading, regardless of what happens next Tuesday. I have been sad and sick for a long time, but today the violence hit very close to home.

White supremacy eventually consumes its own. I say that with a sense of desperate urgency. We need to understand this truth about where we are a nation. For in this truth is the glimmer of the recognition that we must get out of the binary that seems to regularly subsume us.

Here’s the truth: We are all impacted by white supremacist violence. Our shared ground is in standing and opposing it together. That is our only hope.

Whatever the many other factors involved—and there are always many complex factors—the police officers murdered last night and the families devastated in the wake of such unspeakable loss were absolutely the victims of the white supremacy that rolls and churns at the soul of this nation. That violence usually targets people of color, African Americans, immigrants, Native peoples. Today we woke to find that it had crossed the border.

We are a nation deeply wounded and engaged in continued wounding. Wounds do not heal without being aired, cleaned, honored in their fullness and treated. And wounding never stops until it is acknowledged and addressed with honesty; interrupted.

My children’s lives (and your children’s lives) depend on us understanding this: we are all wounded in the clutch of that which remains unhealed. But inside that terrifying, horrifying recognition lies great strength, connection and the possibility of a future.

May it be so.

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