Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

 

Floyd.Taylor.Arbery

This afternoon, I was asked to share a reflection with ELCA Mission Developer Boot Camp participants, as the Congregational Vitality Team followed the Holy Spirit’s urging to suspend its regular agenda and talk about what was on people’s hearts and minds. I shared the following from how I am feeling today:

In 1964, Civil Rights Leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, “All my life I’ve been sick and tired,” “Now,” she said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Today, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am sick and tired of watching Black women and men die because of their Black skin. I’m sick and tired of watching videos like that of George Floyd, where for 9 minutes, he had a knee to his neck, where the full weight of grown men crushed his body in the street.

I am sick and tired of the white people who use police as a weapon when they don’t get their way. I am sick and tired of the police officers who choose to prove they are a weapon against Black bodies.

I am sick and tired of people rediscovering racism every time a hashtag or murderous video gets enough social media attention.

I am sick and tired of respectability advocacy. Let’s face it, the reason the Amy Cooper video got as much attention as it did was because there was a dog being visibly abused in the video. If there had not been, would it have gotten as much attention? And, then, soon after we get credible credentials on Christian Copper: Harvard graduate, bird watcher, former Marvel Comics editor, member of the board of directors for the New York City chapter of the Audubon Society. I’m sick and tired of someone having to be respectable to white standards to be worthy of attention or justice.

I am sick and tired of Black women being erased from the story. The silence around Breonna Taylor’s murder in her bed in Kentucky is deafening.

I am sick and tired of the language distinctions around who is a protestor and who is a rioter. We have watched for weeks as armed white people entered state capitol buildings. For days on end, they were not met with tear gas or the national guard. But, within hours, the people in Minneapolis calling for life and justice, were greeted in this way.

I am sick and tired of people thinking people of color should be surprised that Amy Cooper is a liberal. Liberal people have been complicit in racism since forever. We experience it daily in the workplace, church, and world. We’re not surprised but we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am sick and tired of Pentecost celebrations that celebrate language but do not share struggle.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability…” – Acts 2:1-5

We all know this Pentecost text and we also know the story of the new church that follows. We know the Holy Spirit showed up, changing the lives of the people in the room. The winds of change stirred the people in the room that day but it did not just stir them to stay where they were, among themselves. It blew them out into the world around them.

What happens when the Spirit moves and we are able to hear the language of people around us? The Holy Spirit is with us today, still burning like a hot flame and blowing like wind, opening our ears to hear and understand the people around us.

What has happened in the six years in between when we heard Eric Garner say he couldn’t breathe and when we heard George Floyd say the same this week?

What’s the use of hearing each other’s language if it does not change us?

It’s been almost 56 years since Fannie Lou Hamer declared she was sick and tired of being sick and tired and we are still sick and tired of being sick and tired today.

Hear the cries of your siblings this Pentecost and let it blow you in to new ways of being church for the betterment of God’s children.

What would happen if even more we started really hearing and understanding the language spoken by our neighbor –the language of our lived experiences? The Holy Spirit is blowing among us, sparking a fire within us, sending us out, opening our ears to hear the voices that go unheard among us, inviting us to move beyond hearing and understanding to action – to be the hands and voice and feet of God in the community. To share the story of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit takes what Jesus says and brings it to life through us. The Holy Spirit comes that we might have a word to speak and life to give a broken world. The Holy Spirit comes that we might boldly proclaim the goodness of God in the hardest of times.

As you go out into the unique places God sends you, may the passion of peace ignite a fire in you. May the winds of joy lift you off your feet. May the passion of unity light you into action. May the winds of love blow through your communities. May the fire of the Holy Spirit ignite you to speak life to a broken world. May the winds of the Holy Spirit lead you to break down boundaries that divide.

God of wind and fire, embolden us this day to receive your power through your word. Give us strength and courage to proclaim your love as a call for justice for those who are dying to receive it. Amen.

–Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney

Remarks from “Becoming the body of Christ where all bodies are valued: A conversation around the ELCA’s resolution to condemn White Supremacy”

On Thursday, May 21st, the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod hosted a Zoom Conversation with Bishop Kevin Strickland and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, addressing the ELCA’s resolution to condemn White Supremacy and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The video of this conversation is posted here.

I served as one of several panelists and was asked by some who watched to share my remarks, which follow:


I am a Black woman. I am a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and pastor of Black women and men who get no days off from navigating systems built on a foundation of white supremacy.

I was asked to share from the lens of how leaders, young adults in the African descent community are responding to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

There is a weariness of engaging in the liturgy of adding another name, another hashtag to the list of Black bodies struck down for living life.

There is downright frustration that it took 10 weeks, a video, and a country full of people to bring visibility for Ahmaud’s killers to be arrested. And the recognition that an arrest, alone, is no indicator of justice – George Zimmerman, after all, was also arrested.

There’s talk around what I call Respectability Advocacy. There are people who stand for justice when the circumstance fits within the parameters of what is deemed acceptable in white frameworks.

In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, jogging is a respected activity – people jog every day. But, what if he wasn’t jogging. What if he was doing something else? Does the advocacy remain?

While not as visible, respectability is also seen in headlines around the killing of Breonna Taylor. She was an EMT, a first responder, an essential worker, killed in her bed. But, what if she had some other profession or no profession at all?

I remember talking to a bishop after the murder of Eric Garner. I remember saying, “Whatever one thinks about selling loose cigarettes, the fact is: selling loose cigarettes is not punishable by death.”

If you ran with Maud but never mentioned Eric, why is that?

In her book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing-Brown writes:

Whiteness constantly polices the expressions of Blackness allowed within its walls, attempting to accrue no more than what’s necessary to affirm itself. It wants us to sing the celebratory “We Shall Overcome” during MLK Day but doesn’t want to hear the indicting lyrics of “Strange Fruit.” It wants to see a Black person seated at the table but doesn’t want to hear a dissenting viewpoint. It wants to pat itself on the back for helping poor Black folks through missions or urban projects but has no interest in learning from Black people’s wisdom, talent, and spiritual depth. Whiteness wants enough Blackness to affirm the goodness of whiteness, the progressiveness of whiteness, the openheartedness of whiteness. Whiteness likes a trickle of Blackness, but only that which can be controlled.

A conversation about Ahmaud leads to a conversation about everyday experiences of people of color. The risk Black people face in this country begins well before it becomes a hashtag. It is the everyday experience.

For some, it is easy to say, “No, I would never kill a Black person in my neighborhood!” Then, they strap on their sneakers and run 2.23 miles to prove it. But, when we’re talking about white supremacy, it is not just lived out in murderous acts.

White supremacy is also lived out in the mountainous microaggressions people of color experience daily.

It is lived out in predominately white leadership teams making decisions for ethnically diverse communities.

It is lived out in choosing to talk about white supremacy in a call to a senator but not in a call to a racist relative, colleague, or church member.

It is lived out in whole systems of people working together to circumvent, weaken, and dismantle the leadership of people of color in the church, community, and world.

White supremacy is felt in the daily acts so insidious the recipient of them still feels it in their gut hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades later.

Yet, despite it all, Black people continue to have an unequivocal resolve to keep going, to recognize the value of all God created us to be, even when others are still discerning whether or not they agree. A resilience rooted in our ancestral history to keep standing, to keep jogging, to keep using our voice to stand for better.

Still, like air, we rise.

You asked my hope…My hope is, if you run with Maud, then you no longer walk in the silence of oppressive systems that crush people of color daily in the church and the world. My hope is if you run with Maud, then you do not expect, encourage, or celebrate respectability. My hope is that if you run with Maud, as you commit to dismantling white supremacy, that as you commit to allyism, that your allyism moves past your place of comfort because if you are an ally only to the point of your discomfort, then you are not an ally.

–Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney