Oh, my friends, I am tired today. Tired of hard conversations. Tired of white supremacy lived out in words and bodies. Tired of reading hundreds of pages to find only the tiniest shread – like a hem of a dress ripped free – about someone’s life.
I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. – Fannie Lou Hamer
Today, I’ve been in a hard conversation about systematic injustice with a well-intentioned person who wants kindness and compassion to be enough to make change. I’ve encouraged him to see systems. I’ve asked him to look inward. I’ve pushed him – as gently but firmly as I could – to understand that his personal action may not be enough. . . and he chose to list off all the oppression he has witnessed and then attack me. That’s not okay . . . and I’m okay. Or I will be.
Do these encounters throw you off-balance, too?
Tomorrow, I will spend hours and hours entering the scant data I have about one enslaved community in Louisa, Virginia. I will build a database and all the while know it is will be insufficient – however important – in every single way.
The research into ancestors and history is wearying. For you, too?
So today, my friends, I just speak power and hope to you. I speak of genealogical goldmines and those tiny tidbits of names that give us so much richness. I speak of one more day with one more set of steps and one more afternoon of tears. I speak of strength you take in retreat and in speaking up. I speak of anger that is most than justified and of the wisdom that knows that justified does not equal accepted.
Be strong my friends, be strong. Take care of yourselves. Take breaks when you need them. Let someone grab hold and hug you tight.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back to fight another day.
Now let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” is my favorite of Dr. King’s speeches. You can read the full transcript of the speech here.