Propaganda for the Dead Who Are Not Dead

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. 

Galatians 2:20-21

It’s been a while since I’ve said prayers before going to bed.
I left white Jesus at the altar some years ago,
and I haven’t looked back –
I wouldn’t be caught dead.

Still, after years of education,
after countless sessions of therapy,
after endless beautiful days and stormy evenings,
every night,
every night,
every night,
before I lay me down to sleep,
I’d catch the loud guilt in the silence while I was counting my sheep;
like I was supposed to be praying,
even though I knew nobody was listening to what I was saying.

So all my life, when it’s been just me and my lonesome,
I’ve talked over the noise in my mind to my dead father.
I guess since I found his body still warm when I was four,
in my head I’ve held a tethered connection to the underworld
and to those transitioning out of their skin
into whatever after comes after…
this.

I once was lost under the weight of death,
but I encountered some purpose over the years in talking to him;
in communing with those underground.

In my white-bread, Christian-school awkwardness,
no stranger to loss or emptiness,
I turned my back on the cross in angry solidarity
with my dad,
and others dead
who now stand here with me:
those snatched up like Enoch before their due day,
it is through their lives and deaths
that I substitute pray:
I say their names,
each one times three like OCD.

Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin
Michael Brown, Michael Brown, Michael Brown
Eric Garner, Eric Garner, Eric Garner
Shereese Francis, Shereese Francis, Shereese Francis
Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Aiyana Stanley-Jones
Sandra Bland, Sandra Bland, Sandra Bland

I say as many people’s names as I can remember,
and while the list grows—
over a thousand so far this year today–
every night my ever-evolving prayer ends the same:
my amen is a little boy’s name.

Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice
Tamir Rice:
the twelve year old kid who got shot by a cop
while he played with his toys.
They never said, “stop.”
They
never
said
shit.
They just shot.
Because a little Black boy is no boy at all —
he’s already at 12 a violent thug gone wrong,
more in need of the law than a hug from his mom,
or a question like,
“Hey, son, what you’re doing looks fun; can we play along?”

So at night, I light the Light in the dark of the room
in the dark of my mind
and for all humankind.
Before I lay me down to sleep
I breathe to connect the living and dead–
to hold the names of the people I love,
with whom I talk in my head.

I speak aloud their names so I cannot forget
that the God dad and I left behind has not saved us yet.
He’s as blind as our justice,
and he’s just as unkind as the police that don’t ask questions–
they draw a blue line.

I say their names so I do not forget there is no favor in the eye of the law
for the citizens who at the hand of our government fall,
murdered
murdered
murdered
left for dead on streets and in cells.
Unjustified death – welcome to hell.

I say their names to try to gently unstitch in my heart
the deeply woven, cruel structures
I swear I did not start,
but still I perpetuate every day
by just #WalkingWhileWhite in my entitled Katie way.
I’ve never been questioned at a routine traffic stop;
I’ve never been threatened, harassed, or beat by a cop.
Forget the police ever gunning me down.
I literally could not get arrested in this town.

I say their names so that maybe,
just maybe,
my empathy will grow,
to shine this little light of mine on the other white folks I know.
I pray their names so I won’t lose my tether,
so I won’t lose the the rage.
Unjustified death–once my undoing–is now what’s keeping me sane:
motivated over inundated,
focused over floundering;
free of mind, no more wondering,
filled with love,
joy,
peace,
long-suffering,
gentleness,
goodness,
faith,
and righteous indignation,
against which there is no law.

That which was lost is finally found,
as here I stand as a phalanx,
arm in arm,
with those underground.

Tonight I’ll pray their names over again.

Tamir Rice.
Tamir Rice.
Tamir Rice.

Amen.