As James Baldwin aptly stated; “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all the time.” These words ring so true as I read through the News cycle the past few weeks. The relatively low punishment for Amber Guyger, the subsequent hug that shocked America, another black woman shot in her home, etc. At some points, I recognize that it just becomes too much. The cycle of violence and hatred reaches me in the depths of my being and I shut down at the heart level. At certain times I witness, through the lens of social media, a collective weariness and cry for justice.
This was not always the case for me. Through much of my life, I put things in compartments. Sure I was discriminated against my whole life. Sure I have experienced pain. This pain and trauma didn’t spill over into the rest of my life because at some point I became a master at being able to numb and neutralize my feelings. I learned how to detach from reality as a way of coping.
As God has worked within me to integrate my spirit, soul, and body, I have noticed that my previous coping mechanisms of numbing and neutralizing no longer serve me. The truth is that I feel the pain of being black in a society that has consistently shown that it does not value me or care about my life. I continually enter spaces that are framed around whiteness and I feel immense pressure to fit in. I long for the ability to be “normal”. I wish that I could enter into a workweek without the added depression of another black murder. No matter how much I wish it though, this is not to be. God is teaching me how to be steady while being fully myself.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of The Lord forever. (Psalm 23)
These words from Psalm 23 are a balm on my soul as a black man living here in America. It is easy and fulfilling to study this passage and get lost in all of the imagery and meaning that would have been immediately understood in the passage’s immediate context. However, I have begun to pray this prayer specifically in context to God shepherding me in my ethnic identity. As I pray these words back to God, the toxicity of the culture and incessant news cycle begin to lift off of my weary soul. God is the great Shepherd who knows all of my fears and anxieties. When I am misunderstood by society I know that I have a Shepherd who is acquainted with all of my ways. Let Psalm 23 be a source of prayer and strength fellow brothers and sisters as we wrestle with the everyday pressures of our culture.