April 12, 2015

Racism: Our History Drips Blood.

The Unnamed on Flickr "Freedom"

“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book: Just U.S. history.” ~ Maya Angelou

Yes, it will, but right now my blood boils with rage one minute and it steeps in a deep grief the next.

The only way I know how to help alleviate my angst is to use my words; in this instance, as a spotlight to highlight the perpetuation of racism.

On Tuesday April 7, 2015, Walter L. Scott, an unarmed South Carolina man, was shot eight times in the back while running away from North Charleston officer Michael Slager.

A bystander, Feidin Santana, courageously stepped forward and provided a video of the shooting. He remained anonymous until recently because he feared for his life. The video was the catalyst and evidence submitted to arrest officer Slager and charge him with the murder of Walter Scott.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t bring back Walter Scott.

Educator, author and counselor, David Bedrick, J.D., Dipl. PW, who has written extensively on racism, writes poignantly:

“This is not just the story of one bad action or one bad officer perpetrated against one black man. Other officers often know who the racists are; who freely uses racist language. [Or] which officers are sexist [and] use sexist language. [Some] may even have records of abusing their own wives….This murder is the work of a system: a criminal justice system….It is the system that needs to be on trial; it [involves] all of us.”

Bedrick’s words opened my eyes to a broader view: Our judicial system needs change.

How do we turn it inside out and expose the embedded corruption—the white catfish underbelly? How do we stop and heal the demented thinking and warped beliefs?

There needs to be larger educational forums that can witness and really listen and syphon out the misconceptions, hostility, the generational tainted aberrations, the guilt and shame and racial discrimination.

We need a better system. We need to keep the conversations open.

Otherwise I question, how many more times will these atrocities be repeated?

Racial genocide shakes the marrow in my bones.

In an interview with ABC News, Walter Scott’s mother, Judy Scott heartbreakingly sobs, “I could barely watch [the video]…it tore my heart to pieces…This has got to stop. I’ve lost a son that will never come back. We have his memories, but he will never come back.”

How her words haunt me.

Yesterday, I listened to Billie Holiday and her rendition of “Strange Fruit.” Her voice gives such sorrow-filled depth to the black souls lynched decades ago.

Those dead souls are still walking and waiting for answers. Our history drips blood.

We can’t keep closing our eyes and pretending it isn’t our problem. It only prolongs the tyranny.

I finally had to step away from the news. I needed time to sort through my confusion. I quietly sat by a river and listened. I felt such a heaviness and memories started to surface.

As a kid, my family went to church weekly. There was one black woman, I’ll call her Mrs. Lovely. It’s been a long time since I thought of her, but she came to mind and I listened.

Mrs. Lovely visited our church occasionally. She was referred to as the colored one. I was born in the early 60s, I didn’t see the label “colored” as right or wrong.

What I do remember was her kindness and wisdom. She was my rainbow in a lot of gray clouds.

She was legally blind and yet could see more than most folks. I sat close to her hoping I’d learn how she knew each person by name. Her grandson often brought her and stayed too. I loved that he always spoke to me.

I heard comments though from others, “For a colored boy, he’s okay.”

I didn’t understand but I knew enough by their tone; it was condescending and judging.

Mrs. Lovely connected with everyone. I will always remember she treated me well and most importantly, she saw me as a person.

I believe her presences was with me the other day and she wisely gave me a message:

You can’t keep quiet when you can speak. If you only reach one person this time, next time you might reach two. You have a mind and a heart. You care. Use it.

In that precious moment I knew, I needed to write something, anything to get the pain moving from inside of me.

I had to write in honor of Walter Scott and for his family. I had to face my own racism and feelings.

Racism is everyone’s issue. We can’t hide it. Stuff it away or ignore the festering implications. The wounds are gaping and filled with puss.

I don’t have the answers but I do know my heart aches.

In the words of the poet Langston Hughes, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

My soul is growing deeper and my voice is speaking out as well.


Essay featured on The Tattooed Buddha.


Author: Carolyn Riker

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: the unnamed/Flickr


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