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Baltimore City is about all of us

By Imagining America | May 05, 2015

Enger A. MutetekeBy Enger Muteteke, PAGE 2014-2015 Fellow

The cameras have gone. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I am aware, though, that I must do something. My heart is pained right now as I live and pastor 10 miles outside of Baltimore City. Peaceful protests had been happening in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray prior to the riots that occurred. Yet, it was the “revolution” that was televised. And yet still, in my consciousness, I hear the echoes of familiar names. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Rekia Boyd. Walter Scott. Michael Brown. Countless others. Then, there is another word for which I am thankful and to which I am holding onto for dear life. Intersectionality.

It is not just the deaths of brown and black bodies by police officers that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just the policing of low-income and poor communities of color that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just historic and present systemic avarice and inequality, of all races holding power, position and privilege, that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just joblessness and lack of resources and opportunities in poor communities that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is not just the racialized environmental history of redlining, unfair housing practices, mass incarceration, and families of color repeatedly displaced to build highways, schools, and housing that had people throwing rocks and bottles out of both hands. It is all these things coalescing together pressing in on these families destroying their homes, communities and, yes, lives. The creation of “reform” laws and policies by state and congressional representatives – of all races – sanctioning the militarization of the police only adds fuel to an already blazing fire throughout Baltimore City and this country. And then, there is my own privilege. Yes, you did read that sentence correctly. My. Own. Privilege. I may be an African American woman, but I am one with some privilege. I was privileged to be raised in a middle class household with two loving, college educated parents. I was privileged to have support through my awkward teenage and young adult years. I was privileged to belong to a community who loved me as their own child and poured hope into me. I was privileged to graduate from college. I am privileged to have the means to attain graduate level education. The harder truth, though, is that even with some privilege, the systemic and institutional racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and heterosexism still abound operating in cruel and insidious ways pressing in on all of us, and, ultimately, killing the most marginalized and oppressed groups. Baltimore City ceased to be about Freddie Gray’s death the second brown and black residents took to the streets chanting “no justice, no peace.” Baltimore City is about all of us – every ounce of power and privilege we have misused, every time we witnessed daily microagressions done to ourselves or another and said nothing, every time we are tempted to take up space in this Earth without speaking hope and peace into the life of another. Baltimore City is an indictment against us all.

Last week, I reflected and prayed about just how to discuss and teach about the protests and riots in Baltimore City with my congregation, with my children, and, quite frankly, with myself. I remembered a conversation with my oldest daughter. I asked her opinion on the happenings in Baltimore City. She said, “Oh, you want to know my opinion, Mom? I am happy and sad. I am happy because, since the protests and riots, people have come together to help people in Baltimore City. But, I am also sad because the help should have been there before all this.” These words from my nine year old have remained with me and challenged me. The help should have been there before all this. So, what can we do? We can begin right where we are. We can begin by pouring divine grace, divine love, and divine justice into the life of another – those who are hurting, marginalized and discounted – in all the ways we have been gifted. Listen actively to their stories. Reflect on these stories and connect with them. Then, dare to serve fearlessly, love recklessly, and speak boldly in spaces where people know no hope, know no justice, and know no peace.