The National Memorial for Peace and Justice


https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/

There is no truly adequate way for a White person to pay tribute to the Black men, women and children who have suffered, and are still bearing the intergenerational imprints of suffering, brought on by my ancestors. However, visiting this sacred site in reverence and humility is a step in the right direction. On the journey on the civil Rights Trail, I became even more aware that there is not only intergenerational-trauma, there is intergenerational-perpetration of trauma, and that I am the racist, the slaver, the lyncher, the greedy dominant, the oppressor, the cause of this suffering.

In my journey through Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico,Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and the panhandle of Florida, I also saw intergenerational indoctrination of White children that promoted and still promotes the superiority of their skin color. And although I thought it would more prevalent in some areas than others, it was consistent and persistent throughout all of these areas.

In the same way that Black people have awakened to an understanding of the multi-generational imprinting of slavery and racism and how they have been struggling to undo its impact for over four centuries, White people must awaken to an understanding of our multigenerational imprinting of fear, greed, dominance, hate, and oppression of anyone not white, and how we now must be in a constant state of reflection and awareness to undo this imprinting.

In these coexisting processes of undoing there is a great resistance to true freedom and a clinging to what we have all considered the safe ways of being, or the only ways to keep what we have, in an attempt to make life free from struggle and suffering.

This has only resulted in even greater suffering as we have clung even tighter to our belief systems. As the great awakening to these realities unfolds, many of us will lose what we hold dearest; our livelihood, our property, our family, our belief systems, our entire way of being. This fear of loss will cause some of us to hold on even tighter and, in the process, be willing to threaten the life and limb of others or sacrifice our own life and limb and of those we love.

We have a choice. We can loosen our grip on our property, our pleasures, our belief systems our entire way of being and through that process of loosening and opening our hands, hearts, and minds, we will make room for being with instead of being against.

People of Color and Native People have been doing this work with a minuscule amount of White self-awareness or participation for centuries, even millenia. It is now our time, the White folk’s time, to awaken, understand, and undo, without any preconditions or qualifications. From the entire political, spiritual and emotional spectrum, Left to Right, Religious to atheist, righteous love to righteous hate, we must loosen our grip. We must loosen our arthritically tightened fists and allow ourselves to be led by those who have already walked this path. We must close our mouths and quiet our minds, listen like a still pond, and relinquish our authority to humility. If we do not, we, the White folk, will lose our place in the evolving cosmic consciousness as we claw and cling to the crumbling cliffs of our history and tumble into the abyss of an even greater, and endless suffering.

A Meditation on Harm While Traveling on the Civil Rights Trail. (Remix)

(Mural: “Roadkill” by Roa, Chicago,Ill)

There’s a dead opossum in the walls of this newly built house.

They cannot be located but by the smell of their passing life;

Trapped, sleeping, while the insulation, wallboard, tape, and paint

Were urgently applied to get the job done.

It will take a smashing and drilling and ripping of the walls

To get to the remnants of the carcass of harm

That is causing a persistent suffering stench 

Permeating this newly built house.

Conscious, intentional, and perceptible harm  may cause immediate and maybe even indelible results, 

but that harm is there, available

To be raged at, to be swung at, to run from, to apply bandages to, to tell someone about, to seek support for, to choose a reaction to,

Before the studs go in

And the insulation is sprayed.

And the wallboard tacked and taped

And the coats of paint applied.

It’s the harm that arises from the dying opossum in the walls of the house

that lies in wait, hidden from consciousness, 

that, at its inception, cannot be raged at, swung at, run from, bandaged, spoken about, soothed, or reacted to;

It is the harm from 

preverbal imprints, childhood violence, or subtle emotional manipulations, silent neglect, subtle sarcasm, lifelong lies, or constant diminishment;

Or even more, 

The insidious carcasses buried 

In the foundations of lives, families, societies, genders, races, cultures and karmas, genderism, racism, classism, culture-ism, faith-ism, lookism, ageism, privilege, dominance, slavery, supremacy, competition, ignorance, egoism;

It is these hidden or forgotten harms that are initially unseen in the flurry to rebuild and repair and are seemingly impossible to root out, because they are imbedded in the foundations of the skyscrapers of lives, and the ways of living that sustain a desire for permanence, and drive the fear of its loss.

– Eternal life is the promise of religion,

– “Long lasting” is the gold standard for things, relationships, occupations, wealth, deodorant,

– Endurance is the epitome of the idea of physical well being and emotional strength.

– Perpetual legacy and continual recognition are the goals we are taught to strive for.

Threats to self importance, to spiritual superiority, to material dominance.

threaten this body’s existence and to all of the beliefs in a permanent existence;

stirring up fear, aggression, jealousy, hatred, clinging and attachment;

the ingredients for a perfect, concrete mix to conceal the rotting carcasses of harm.

What would happen if the wisdom of 

impermanence 

replaced the desire for

permanence?

Would the wallboard crumble?

Would the insulation vaporize?

Would the studs rot away,

Would the foundation dissolve?

Would the source of the insufferable stench be revealed?

Would we let go of the need to rebuild?

Would we ever harm again?

The Mississippi

I wanted the Mississippi to be bigger.

As big as its name.

I wanted her to overpower me with strength and width and inspire me

like the thousands of writers who have eloquated about her.

I wanted the Mississippi to threaten me, to rile me up, to quake me,

*

But it can’t.

*

It is too burdened with the weight of a thousand rivers

Pouring themselves into her come-at-able depths.

Rivers carrying the prayers and despairs, the hoping and coping,

The aspirations and desperations, the crying lying, and dying

Of a nation in the depths of coming to terms with its karma.

*

The Mississippi doesn’t welcome this burden, nor reject it,

Neither takes it up or puts it down, neither absorbs or repels it.

She just consumes it and filters it,

and moves this country’s ills

to the Gulf, to the Sea to the Ocean to the Sky,

to the Mountains and back to the Land;

Purified, scrubbed clean,

to fill the springs and the creeks and the streams and the rivers

that absorb the pollution of America’s greedy dreams,

its painful arrogance, and the blood of its self righteous wars.

*

Soon though, she will stop.

She will clog up the mouths of those rivers with unmetabolized waste,

and those rivers will dam up the confluence of the creeks

which will back up the springs

which will have nowhere to run and will remain underground,

hiding, waiting, for this eon to pass.

I’d like to say now, like Lascelles declared in “The Box”

“But there is a way to stop it all” (sic)

“All it takes is wisdom.

”But I am not “absolutely sure” that there is a way.

Except perhaps for some global pandemic

That threatens the lives of all of us

*

.…But that’s not working either.

*

So perhaps Lascelles is right that

“No one seems to want to save the children anymore.”

*

It doesn’t seem to matter to the Great Mississippi.

She just keeps on rollin’

Until she doesn’t.

Until she does.