I’m angry. I’m not even sure that’s a big enough word for what I’m feeling. The rage is deep, so pervasive at times it threatens to paralyze me into inaction. I struggle against the threat of being rendered immobile by this anger every day.
This week, I braced myself for the release of another video of a heinous police shooting of an unarmed black man, this time in Cincinnati, Ohio. I must fight with every fiber of my being to stay in my body, to stay connected to my feelings and ground myself, bracing for another wave of grief and pain that feeds my deeper rage.
That’s why on August 7-10, I am responding to the call of leaders in Ferguson to show up and take collective action for racial justice on the anniversary of the Ferguson uprising. I invite you to join me. Click here to view the invitation from local and regional clergy in Greater St. Louis and the MidAmerica region.
Make no mistake, living with a constant undercurrent of rage takes a toll. It goes against what I am taught as a woman: to be polite and calm. It goes against what I am taught as a white person: “It’s not your problem. Why are you getting so worked up by all this?” It goes against what my faith teaches me about the importance of living a peaceful, balanced life.
But we are not living in peaceful or balanced times.
Racialized violence IS my problem.
I am not interested in being polite,
and I am unable to remain calm anymore.
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. His body, the body of Lesley McSpadden’s eighteen-year old son, lay in the middle of the street for four hours, while stunned community members gathered to console one another amidst the horrific scene. State violence robbed another young man of his future.
In the aftermath, residents of Ferguson rose up in their own pain and grief, resolved to stand up to the police, protesting the decades of injustice heaped upon their people. The militarized police response was violent and disproportionate, revealing the fear and disdain with which the Ferguson Police Department regarded the people it is sworn to protect and serve.
The clothes Michael Brown wore on the day he was killed are exactly like those my students were required to wear at the public school where I once taught. He could have been one of my students.
My faith teaches me that we are all deeply inextricably connected. So whenever someone’s life is stolen in this way, we all are affected. We cannot escape this, even if we use coping strategies that numb us to this reality or deflect the pain through denial.
As a white woman, I am very unlikely to experience anything like Lesley McSpadden has gone through with the loss of her son. I do not fear every time my family members leave the house that I may not see them again. When I see police lights in my rear view mirror, I get upset, but nowhere in the back of my mind do I wonder if I could end up dead in a jail cell within three days, blamed for my own death.
I pray to God that I will never know the horror of losing a family member to State violence. And, because no one else should have to either, I am responding to the call to show up on the anniversary of the Ferguson uprising.
I am letting my anger guide me to loving action. It leads me into beloved community with the people of Ferguson who have called us to join together on the weekend of Aug 7-10. My anger guides me as I respond to this call to action. I ask you to join me as well. Click here to view the invitation from local and regional clergy in Greater St. Louis and the MidAmerica region. If you can’t come to St. Louis, what will you do to demonstrate that #BlackLivesMatter in your community?
Lori Stone Sirtosky
Director of Technology, Church of the Larger Fellowship
Lori serves as a lay leader with Sacred Path Church, a covenanting community of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, Bryan.