When it comes to engaging in social justice work, rest is vitally important. During this mid-summer retreat, I am feeling physically rested. As for spiritual rest-well that remains elusive.
I identify as afro-Puerto Rican. Meaning that I hold onto my identity as a Puerto Rican woman, while acknowledging my indigenous and African roots. Those who know even a little bit of American history know about the centuries of violence inflicted on indigenous people and Africans. However, as horrific as the violence inflicted on black and brown bodies in the past was, what is disheartening is that this violence continues to be a part of American society. And it makes me angry. I am angry that another person of color-unarmed-has been killed by American police. I am angry because this seems like the beginning of script that we are all familiar with-angry protests, promises by law enforcement and government officials that a thorough investigation will be had only for those responsible to not be charged, to have charges dropped, or to be given a token sentence. This familiar script simply reinforces the notion that in black and brown lives don’t actually matter. My life doesn’t matter.
I am tired of having to defend my worth and existence to a society that will always see people like me as thugs, thieves, and criminals no matter what we do. I am tired of having to pretend that everything is alright-that the continued violence against black and brown bodies doesn’t bother me. The reality is the media only covers a fraction of the violence against black and brown bodies perpetrated by the state-the rest are often ignored or dismissed. In most cases, the official narrative is parroted without thought: the people killed were a threat, were thugs, and were worthless. The larger society has the privilege of being able to pay attention to violence against black and brown bodies only when it makes national news. As a person of color, I don’t have that luxury. I hear about many of the local and insignificant deaths. The names that are printed in a short article and often forgotten by everyone but loved ones. Their lives sniffed out and erased. Do their lives matter? I think their lives mattered, but society’s silence serves as a resounding no.
I have to go about my day fearing that I could one day be next. I have to keep those fears silent and internalized knowing that I would be ridiculed for having them. What do I have to worry about? I just need to “act right,” not talk back, not “resist,” do what I am told; do what I am supposed to do. I just need to be quiet. But I know that sometimes doing “everything right,” isn’t enough. That because of the color of my skin, my life could be snuffed out and my death considered justified.
I am physically rested. But I am spiritually tired and broken. And no amount of time off is going to heal me. I need the violence to stop. I need the deaths to stop. I need the worth of people of color to be affirmed. I need my life to be affirmed. I wonder, does the Church hear my suffering? Does the Church care? The Church’s silence is deafening.