Elder Wisdom: Ruby Sales | On Being with Krista Tippett

Terence Crutcher. Another innocent, unarmed black man was assasinated. Unarmed. In need of help. In the middle of the highway.

Gunned down. On film. Demonized for simply existing. By another white cop.

Real talk: I don’t have enough skillfulness to see beyond the savagery of this act. The savagery of white cops who are authorized to wage war on black and brown bodies without repercussion, on a whim of a notion hastily stitched together by any misperceived glimpse of what?! suscipious movements or weapons?! direct or implied threat?!

Nope, plain and simple: their hate-fear and our melaninated skin.

I sat down to have lunch, inhaled the fragrant broth, and exhaled tears. In that moment I touched the amorphous and unameable feeling, which had been building for days (at turns, subdued by moments of refuge with beloveds and then piqued by a few personal and familial woes): A quiet deep-down hum of dread.

Dread…that we are doomed to the misery of oppression and supremacy no matter how many good white folks divest of their racism, bias, and fear and leverage their privilege to enter into the good work of liberation and justice. Dread that systemic change is too slow, that the real and apparent need for the transformation of millions of hearts and minds is inconceivable.

Dread that if I hear one more story like this, I won’t find my way back to the center from the cliff’s edge of my compassion.

I needed to hear this today. It had been in my queue of Must-Listen-To’s, and I woke to a text from my dear (white) friend telling me that she was in the middle of listening to it this morning. I was meant to hear it. So I sat with my dread and tears and listened deeply to the voice of elder wisdom.

It was salve and comfort — as nourishing as my steamy bowl of spiced broth and noodles. A touchstone to what holds most heart and meaning for me in building an inclusive spiritually-centered community of refuge where we can restore our wholeness, commit to nurturing skillful relationships, and engaging in practices that bring about reconciliation.

The dread dissipated. Still I make room for its return.

Thankful for these gems of wisdom from human rights activist and public theologian Ruby Sales.

Cry of Liberation: Black Lives Have Always Mattered

Let me just say something about Black Lives Matter. Although we are familiar with it within a contemporary context, that has always been the cry of African Americans from the point of its captivity, through enslavement, through Southern apartheid. And Northern migration and de facto segregation was the assertion that black lives matter in a society that said that black people were property, in a society that said that black lives did not matter.

Spiritual Crisis of White America

there’s a spiritual crisis in white America. It’s a crisis of meaning, and I don’t hear — we talk a lot about black theologies, but I want a liberating white theology. I want a theology that speaks to Appalachia. I want a theology that begins to deepen people’s understanding about their capacity to live fully human lives and to touch the goodness inside of them rather than call upon the part of themselves that’s not relational. Because there’s nothing wrong with being European American. That’s not the problem. It’s how you actualize that history and how you actualize that reality. It’s almost like white people don’t believe that other white people are worthy of being redeemed.

And I don’t quite understand that. It must be more sexy to deal with black folk than it is to deal with white folk if you’re a white person. So as a black person, I want a theology that gives hope and meaning to people who are struggling to have meaning in a world where they no longer are as essential to whiteness as they once were.

Love, Outrage + Redemptive Anger

...love is not antithetical to being outraged. Let’s be very clear about that. And love is not antithetical to anger. There are two kinds of anger. There’s redemptive anger, and there’s non-redemptive anger. And so redemptive anger is the anger that says that — that moves you to transformation and human up-building. Non-redemptive anger is the anger that white supremacy roots itself in. So we have to make a distinction. So people think that anger, in itself, is a bad emotion, and it’s where you begin your conversation.

I became involved in the Southern Freedom Movement, not merely because I was angry about injustice, but because I love the idea of justice. So it’s where you begin your conversation. So most people begin their conversation with “I hate this” — but they never talk about what it is they love. And so I think that we have to begin to have a conversation that incorporates a vision of love with a vision of outrage.

And I don’t see those things as being over and against each other. I actually see them — you can’t talk about injustice without talking about suffering. But the reason why I want to have justice is because I love everybody in my heart. And if I didn’t have that feeling, that sense, then there would be no struggle.

On Human-ness: Universality + Particularity

What it means to be humans. We live in a very diverse world, and to talk about what it means to be humans, is to talk with a simultaneous tongue of universality and particularities. So as a black person to talk about what it means is to talk about my experience as an African American person, but also to talk about my experience that transcends being an African American to the universal experience.

So I think it — we’ve got to stop speaking about humanity as if it’s monolithic. We’ve got to wrap our consciousness around a world where people bring to the world vastly different histories and experiences, but at the same time, a world where we experience grief and love in some of the same ways. So how do we develop theologies that weave together the “I” with the “We” and the “We” with the “I?”

HEAR HERE [for deep listening]: Ruby Sales | “Where Does it Hurt?”
READ [for clear-seeing]: Transcript