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Some Days Love Looks Like Anger

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

Yesterday evening, I arrived at the rally in a downtown plaza in Oakland, California and said hello to a few friends. Oakland is a marvelous place, filled with art and music, a lake with Canada geese and night herons, and boats that skull across the waters. Oakland is also a place where young people are killed on what sometimes feels like a daily basis.

I greeted the parents of a young man who was killed a year ago last May. We spoke briefly, and I showed them that my sign had a picture of Trayvon Martin on one side, and their son, Alan Blueford, on the other. Adam, Alan’s dad, said, “That’s the picture that always gets to me.” I asked when it was taken. “Thanksgiving,” his mom replied. “It was cold that day” explaining the skully on Alan’s head. “It was the Thanksgiving before he was shot. He was seventeen”

The man who shot him is back in uniform. Back on the job. What do I say to his parents? I don’t know. We simply stand together until it is time for Jeralynn, Alan’s mother, to speak words as bright as fireworks from the stage.

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

All week, I’ve been in a back and forth with a magazine editor about what constitutes racism, what constitutes White Supremacy, what constitutes acceptable behavior on the part of one of her writers. I’ve gotten nowhere with this conversation, though I’ve tried. I’ve talked with friends about it. We are trying to figure out what to do to further confront the racism and unexamined privilege in our overlapping spiritual communities. 

I remarked on Twitter: “Combating racism is tiring. I don’t know how people of color do it daily, year after year. Love and respect.”

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

A friend passed along a beautiful poem performed by a man who had to figure out how to teach his four year old nephew what it means to be black in America, without teaching him to constantly be afraid. I posted it on my Facebook page. This morning I awakened to find someone had left a hateful, racist comment on the thread. I took a screen shot, reported the person, and blocked him. I posted that hate does not deserve a platform.

It’s too much, some days. Young people are dying in Oakland and Chicago. Young people are also dying across the globe, victims of xenophobia and greed. Their parents grieve. Yet some of us feel we have the right to spew hatred upon one another. Some of us feel we have the right to remain steeped in ignorance. Some of us feel we have a right.

We can do these things. And we do. But do we have a right? Who gives us those rights? Sometimes I think these things that we call rights are just another form of privilege. If you can get away with spewing hate without getting shot down in the streets, you have privilege. Privilege is the ability to not have to stare oppression in the face every day.

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

Outside a bar last week, I talked with a local poet. “I’ve been beaten multiple times by the police. I’ve been shot by the police. And on not one of those days did I leave my home thinking ‘That’s going to happen today.’” 

A friend of mine works with youth who come to school every day, trying to get along like any other high school students. But their friends have been shot. Killed. Their friends have gone hungry. They don’t have shoes for the basketball tournament. There is one art class at their school. There is no computer lab. You read that right. There is no computer lab. Yet all they have to do is “work a little harder.” All they have to do is “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” All they have to do is “get their lazy asses off of welfare.” Because, you know, reverse racism and reverse discrimination are real. And the playing field is level in the United States of America.

Some days, love looks and feels a lot like anger. 

I’ve felt angry this week like I haven’t felt in years, me, the cheerleader of love and change and beauty. Don’t get me wrong; I’m going to keep working for justice. Don’t get me wrong: I’m going to keep opening my heart to love. Don’t get me wrong; I will still let music fill me, and the sight of trees awaken my heart. I just know that sometimes love has to be poured through the slow burning fire of an angry heart. Not a heart filled with hatred – for that is poison, that gets stuck – but a heart that sometimes loves so much, with such passion, that anger is the only right response. 

Then my heart will break again. I’ll fill with hope. I’ll hold some people close to me, and fiercely. The fire in me will bank to warming coals.

But today? This day? A day in this week marked by the killing of Emmet Till, the waters rising to engulf the poor parishes of New Orleans, the lifting of the voice of Dr. King, asking us for justice, freedom, and the fulfillment of a great dream?

This day, this week, love looks and feels a whole a lot like anger. 

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still love. 

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