It’s early Sunday morning and I’m sitting on my roof deck. It’s a beautiful morning, cool, sunny. The flowers in the pots lining the edge of the deck are starting to come into bloom: bright yellows, reds, purples. The birds are singing. A gentle breeze is blowing.
Over Center City Philadelphia, about a mile and a half to the south, a helicopter is hovering, only one. Last night, when I could see the smoke coming from the building the protestors had set on fire, there were half a dozen.
To loot (v): to rob especially on a large scale and usually by violence or corruption.
1619: The first ship bringing human beings abducted from the continent of Africa arrives in Point Comfort, in the colony of Virginia.
Last night an old friend of mine, Tyrone, emailed me from Denver to say he was thinking of me. He’d seen the news coverage from Philadelphia, and he told me to stay put and stay safe.
Tyrone and I first met in high school when mandatory bussing in Denver started. He had to get up hours before dawn to catch the school bus that took him across town so he could get to our white suburban school and integrate it before the first bell rang.
1857: The Supreme Court rules, in Dred Scott v. Sanford, that African Americans have “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Once, years ago, when I was waiting in line in the women’s restroom in Philadelphia’s 30th Street train station, a woman came in and stood in line behind me. She must have worked in the station; she was wearing a name tag. I felt a rush of excitement when I saw that her last name was Pearce. Not very many people spell it with an e-a.
I was just about to say something to her, but suddenly I realized the possible implications. My great-great-grandfather, a Methodist pastor in Mississippi who was renowned for his preaching on the revival circuit, owned slaves. The woman standing behind me was Black.
1877: Jim Crow laws are initiated to reinstate white supremacy after Reconstruction; the promises to freed slaves, that they be given 40 acres and a mule, abandoned.
Tyrone teaches African American Studies, and two days ago when we were Zooming he explained to me that the police force in the US has its origins in the slave patrols.
He explained to me that when Black people seek medical attention for a broken bone they are given a fraction of the pain medication whites receive because those in the medical establishment assume they have a much higher pain threshold than whites.
1963: Klansmen plant dynamite in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The bodies of four young Black girls are found in the basement rubble.
Earlier in the evening, when I was sitting in the living room attempting to read, I felt my Heart take over. I felt it holding, in its vast spaciousness, everything that is unfolding right now. The anger, the grief, the despair, the fear, the hope, it was holding it all in Love.
I’ve learned this about the Heart: it turns nothing away. When I find myself transported into that Heart knowing I understand what absolute wholeness is.
2020: George Floyd, handcuffed, lying on the pavement and begging for his life, is calmly murdered by a police officer kneeling on his neck.
Last night, when I was thinking about Tyrone’s email and him checking in on me, something in me collapsed. I felt my love for him, the Love of one human being for another, the Love that knows of our inherent equality, the Love that is never fooled by the lies we’ve been taught, or the lies we tell ourselves. I started to cry.
That’s when I realized that at its core, beneath all the fear, beneath all the patronizing superiority, beneath all the veiled (or not so veiled) violence, racism is about white people being in denial of Love. It is about us being alienated from our own capacity for Love. It is about betraying our own essence as Love.
As I write these words, the helicopter over Center City flies away. They must have seen everything they needed to see.
I had an experience once that revealed to me that this world is a dream, a story in which we are playing out all of our unconscious beliefs. As someone who has worked with dreams for years, I know that dreams always come to show us the things we need to see in order to come into our wholeness. They always confront us with aspects of ourselves that we have rejected. And they will always keep recurring until we bring all of ourselves back home.
I also know that the only way a recurring dream changes is when the mind that is dreaming it changes. I’m not sure why, but I sense that the mind that is dreaming this dream is beginning to change.