Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. It wasn’t something that I had planned to write about or necessarily want to address. But, like a pesky stone in my shoe, I couldn’t ignore it, so here goes. Occasionally, when I go on a media fast (when I don't check out any news), events happen that capture the public's attention. Usually, in the broad scheme of things, it is of little or no consequence. Other times, the events are worthy of notice. Late last week, Jaelan, my son, asked me if I had seen a particular YouTube video. I said I hadn't, and he went on to show it to me. The video concerned Jacob Blake, a young African American man being shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer. Jacob was walking to his van to try to enter it. The shooting happened as three young children were sitting in the back of the car. Last report, Mr. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down, and it is uncertain if he will be able to walk again.
A young black man himself, Jaelan was exasperated by what happened to Jacob Blake. He had just witnessed the horrendous killing of George Floyd. Not only was that incident on his mind, but unbeknownst to me, Jaelan had been documenting incidences of police brutality since he was 15 years old. He decided to write a song and create a YouTube video to release his frustration constructively.
Personally, the human part of me felt exhausted and depleted. I’ve been witnessing such instances for a long time. Nevertheless, I sought to investigate the situation a little further. According to the person who recorded the video, a neighbor called the police to handle a domestic dispute involving Mr. Blake. Preliminary findings showed that the police did recover a knife on the driver's side of the car. When I practiced law, I learned to live by the saying, "No matter how thin the pancake, there are always two sides." I've since updated that saying and added there is always a third side, the spiritual one. More about that another time… After my initial dismay, I sought to look at what happened from as many perspectives as possible.
Naively, I thought there would be a change in consciousness and behavior after a police officer, by putting his knee on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, caused the death of George Floyd. After protests swept across the United States and around the world, there was a sense that an era of significant transformation was afoot. We witnessed police officers march with peaceful protestors, local government officials, and citizens seeking ways to improve the relationship between the African American community and the police. There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon. But that hope seemed to come crashing down after the Jacob Blake shooting. Even after taking into consideration the circumstances, it still was not a good look. As one commentator noted, after the first two shots, what was the purpose of shots three through seven?
As a talk show host and comedian put it, even when wild animals are loose on the streets, animal control doesn't start with the intent to shoot to kill; they have tranquilizers and nets. One would think another human being would be treated at least as well as a wild animal. So, more protests took place. While a small number who have no interest in constructive change hijacked the cause with destructive actions, most of the demonstrations were peaceful. But I've been wondering, from a spiritual perspective, what can we do to help create a just society that works for everyone?
As we head into what will likely be one of the most intense and contentious political seasons in recent American history, one might think that the right political leadership is the answer. While not unimportant, the most critical guidance must come from the leader within each of us. This inner leadership will set the conscious direction needed in our country and our world today. The world is calling forth from every one of us a new perspective, a new energy, a new way of handling conflict, and a new way to address our day's issues. This moment is seeking to pull out of us that new way of being, to guide our societies and our world in the right direction. We don't have to wait for the politicians to develop ways to deal with challenges such as racial injustice. The politicians will follow our lead. Then they'll say it was their idea. But we won't care; it's a good idea anyway. We are just the channels for its expression.
Well, Jaelan submitted his song to an outfit that, among other genres, features hip-hop music. They liked what he came up with, and they asked for Jaelan's profile information to feature his song on their website. He believed the least he could do is express to others how he felt and hope that enough people will do their part to co-create a more just world. I believe we are here to do the same.
Peace and Blessings,