I Start With Myself

The last few days have stirred up a storm of memories and emotions. I have felt angry. Sad. Powerless. Lost. Haunted by the times I didn’t step up to confront racism and injustice. Haunted by trauma I have endured. Haunted by trauma I have inflicted on others.

At 16, I went to a protest I didn’t even understand. Angst and hormones and I wanted to burn the old order down. I can’t imagine how the oppressed and disadvantaged man feels.

At 18, there were warrants out for my arrest. Someone yelled that cops were outside. I ran out the back door of the upstairs apartment and right into a line of SWAT officers with assault rifles.

“I will shoot you dead, boy.” One of them said. “Hands in the air. Walk backward down the steps”

My hands shot up, throbbing as blood struggled to keep flowing through them. Adrenaline buzzed.

The stairs were covered in ice and snow. I looked back, hesitated, looked toward the cops. One raised his rifle higher.

When someone puts a gun in your face there is no cocking sound like in the movies. Instead, the barrel seems to grow larger, like you could walk forward into it.

I stepped backward and slipped. Another few steps and another slip. At the bottom my arms were grabbed. I was put in cuffs.

I was guilty of crimes of violence. I needed to be arrested. I don’t want to see an innocent man or non-violent man be called “boy” or have his life threatened.

I have felt a knee on my neck, holding me down, making it hard to breathe. I have had to jump back from a lunging attack dog whose handler loved to hide around blind corners to scare the shit out of prisoners. I have been told “cuff up or else” by men itching to do violence. I have choked on pepper spray.

I don’t want to see an innocent man or a non-violent protestor endure the same.

I want to see a different world. Today I start with myself. I have committed crimes and done great harm. I have failed to step up to racism. I have harbored resentment and prejudice.

I seek to heal where I have harmed. I seek to give where I have taken. I seek to forgive. I seek to do better. I hope our system can somehow do the same.