I Once Was Blind
I’m sitting in a coffee shop, trying to get a grip on the frustration plaguing me. As if it’s not enough to expend what seems like all of my energy metaphorically speaking through a megaphone to a crowd not interested in listening, I also cannot gather my thoughts enough to write it all down. Type, backspace, try again. Type, backspace, sip of coffee. Sigh.
Now, more than ever, is not a time to be speechless.
I haven’t always been such an angry woman. I was blissfully unaware of the world around me, a master of wishful thinking. Happy in my ignorance. Blind.
Like a story from the bible, however, those who refused to be ignored mixed dirt with their spit and slathered it across my eyes. “Rub,” they demanded. “Rub, then wash it off with the tears caused by our oppression.”
I did as they asked, with no small amount of indignation. I scoffed at their use of the word “oppression.” I scraped away the mud, preparing to return eye for eye and spit in their direction. But, when the grit cleared from my sight, I was shocked at who stood before me.
Generations of black people waited quietly. Shirtless men stood tall, despite the fresh stripes on their backs, the hot sun making them glisten with sweat, and the cotton balled up in their fists. Colored women maintained eye contact, daring me to notice the tattered, blood-stained dresses they wore as cruel reminders of the sexual and physical abuse their white masters inflicted upon them. Black musicians, absentmindedly strumming their instruments while the radio played Elvis Presley. Others were seated on benches set aside specifically for those with the color of their skin. Young black children whimpered in front of me, having just received “the talk” from their mother or father. Tamir Rice, lifeless, rested in a pool of his own blood. Eric Garner’s mother held a framed picture of her son, jaw clenched, tears falling from her eyes. Protestors, outraged and overcome with sorrow, pushed the crowd forward. “Notice us,” they seemed to say. “Say our names.”
I finally did, and began to weep.
“I see you! I see you, and I’m so sorry. My god, I am so sorry.”
As one, they reached out their calloused hands, urging me to take hold and join them.
I had a choice there. I could have decided to frantically pick up the mud I had flicked off of my hands just moments before and placed it back over my eyes. I could have backed up and said, “No, the mud is familiar and I can’t see past it.” Like so many others stumbling around, I could have never washed it off to begin with.
As I write this, I am wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. It’s a reminder to myself that, despite my hand in the oppression of African Americans, it’s not too late to use my hands for something good; for cleansing, repenting, and joining an age-old fight for justice and equality. My hands, once covered with generations of the black community’s blood, can be washed. But I have to choose it.
White people, have your eyes been cleared of the mud? Have you been changed by turning from blindness? Are you angry for our black brothers and sisters?
If you, like me, cannot un-see the injustices we’ve caused, know that we are (and always have been) carriers of an important responsibility. Our voices must now join those of color, crying out against the privilege and inherent racism that’s always fueled this nation. We must now spit in the dirt and place mud onto the eyes of still-blind white people.
Some will keep the mud there. Others will wash it off only to panic and place it back on their eyes. But if one white person, like us, washes their eyes, weeps, repents, and joins the black masses in the fight for freedom from their oppression, it was worth it.
So, were you once blind but can now see?
Repent and raise your voice. There’s work to be done.