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Confronting Racism is Spiritual Work

“Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.” – Mary “Mother” Jones

I didn’t get much sleep last night, but I’m sure it was more than Trayvon Martin’s parents got. I’m sure it is more than the parents of young black or brown children got.

I’m not here to talk about the trial. Many others are doing that. I’m not here to talk about stand your ground laws. Many others are doing that.

You might rather I spoke only of spiritual matters. You might rather I spoke only of the love that flows through all things. You might rather that I spoke only of the power of illuminated hearts. 

I am speaking of all of these. Right now. 

When we live in states of fear, we forget the flow of love. When we create systems that are infused with racism, that end up teaching black teens that they are only worthy of being feared, and not worthy of being loved and protected, we darken the illumination in our hearts. We fail to recognize, over and over, that spirit joins us.

We are tearing ourselves asunder. The cost is high. Systemic racism means that every 36 hours an African American is killed by police or private security forces. Systemic racism means that when a black woman fires a warning shot into the air in an attempt to scare off her violent husband, she gets 20 years, despite the same Stand Your Ground Laws at play in the Zimmerman trial. Systemic racism means that every black and brown man in New York City has been stopped and frisked multiple times for no cause. Systemic racism means that African Americans are four times as likely to be arrested and jailed for marijuana possession than whites. Systemic racism means that more African Americans are in prison than were ever held as slaves.

Racism means that Trayvon Martin is dead.

Racism means that Alan Blueford is dead.  

Racism means that Kimani Gray is dead. 

Racism means that Sean Bell is dead.

Racism means that Gary King is dead.

Racism means that Raheem Brown is dead.

Racism means that Oscar Grant is dead…

Racism means that we live in fear and put each other in danger. We put one another in harm’s way. We do this. WE do this.

This is a spiritual issue. This is all a spiritual issue. Matter is not fallen. The material world is sacred. That includes all of us. And yet we forget. We say that this portion does not deserve the light of the sun. We forget that even things that live in darkness can be beautiful and true. We say we have no power. We say it’s not our problem. We forget: we too are sacred. We are touched with divine fire. We forget that we co-create the cosmos with the Gods. We forget that every moment of every day, we get to choose: this magic, or that magic? We forget the flow of love.

We forget that for love to flow freely, becoming the great connector, we must be open to it. We must open to love. In opening to it, love flows through us. Love flows on.

This is a time for prayer. This is also a time for action. This is a time to open the floodgates of love. This is a time to act for justice.

Here are just a few possibilities:

  1. Educate yourself about racism and privilege.

  2. Help the Vote Riders with ensuring greater access to basic voting rights for all citizens. 

  3. Work to overturn punitive drug laws

  4. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Get to know their hopes and fears.

  5. Organize in your communities to address violence and corruption in police, security forces, and prisons. 

  6. Plant a garden in an empty lot. Feed people. Throw block parties. Make art. Educate children. Take time. Volunteer. Dance. Make love. Study. Raise awareness. Educate yourself. Help educate others. Speak up. Sit down. Stand tall. 

 Ask yourself: what might a society based on love, mutual aid, and mutual respect look like? Which of my values uphold this? Organize toward that. We all must do our part. The only failure is to stop trying.


Today, my intention is to sit in silent meditation at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaze in Oakland. 4pm pacific. Locals, I would love it if you would join me.

 Every first Friday I am at the main Oakland Police Department at 7th and Broadway with the Interfaith Tent for Justice talking with people, and reading the names of those killed by police: 100% Ceasefire.

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