Happy Black History Month

It’s Groundhog Day in America. I don’t know if Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow. But I know there is certainly a dark image hovering over the land.

Yesterday, the family of Tyre Nichols laid their loved one to rest. I didn’t watch the funeral. I don’t believe that family grief ought to be for public consumption. Nor did I watch any of the video footage of Mr. Nichols encounter with the police. I honestly haven’t watched any of these videos since 2017. My heart can’t take it. It is hard for me to shake off the darkness that follows watching such things.

But just because I’m not watching, doesn’t mean that I’m unaware. Almost every podcast I listen to has talked about the videos and its aftermath. I have heard everything from Jason Whitlock’s nonsensical take on the situation to Tyre Nichols’ big sister telling the whole world that all she wanted was her little brother back. I’m a big sister and that one line was enough to darn near bring me to tears, and I’m not a crier.

It’s Groundhog Day in America.

Michaela Angela Davis once said about mothers who have lost sons, “It’s like the light has gone out of their eyes.” The darkness can sneak up on you. It can find you when you least expect it. I cannot imagine what Mrs. Wells felt when she watched that footage and heard her son calling out for her. Unfortunately, there is a cadre of women who know exactly what that’s like. Sometimes dubbed the mothers of the movement, women who have lost their sons to violence by agents of the state, often show up in support of others who are forced to join their sorrowful sorority.

It’s Groundhog Day in America.

There is talk of another police reform bill. But the two major parties are already blaming each other for why it won’t pass. The bill, named for a black man killed at the hands of the police in 2020, passed the House in June 2020 and again in March 2021. It’s been stalled in the Senate. It didn’t even make it out of committee. The Washington Post’s tagline is “Democracy dies in darkness.” That may be true. The thing about darkness, though, is that our eyes adjust to it. When we first see the darkness, it is jarring, maybe even scary. But the longer we spend in darkness, the more comfortable we become. That’s why I can’t watch the videos.

It’s Groundhog Day in America and I couldn’t care less about whether the ground hog saw his shadow. The darkness that concerns me is one that lies within. It is the inability to recognize the light in others. You cannot tell me that the officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ death recognized even a spark of light in him. One of two things had to happen. They were either too concerned with their own light (self-righteousness), or they had let the darkness overtake them . In either case, the officers failed to see the image of God, the light, in this young man. They had “othered” him in a way that made their own behavior okay. We are all capable of this and that is the most frightening thing. My parents saw it in the 1960s. I saw it in March 1991. My children are talking about it in January 2023.

It is Groundhog Day in America, but maybe like in the Bill Murray film, we can learn from our mistakes and try again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Happy Black History Month!

One thought on “Happy Black History Month

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