Why Breonna and Black Lives Matter to Me

Note: I sat on this post for about a week and a half, before the charges were dropped against Kenneth Walker. I was debating whether this post (which is mostly my own meandering process and at times borders on self-indulgent) was beneficial to share, or if it would just add to the online cacophony. But, after seeing today’s news of George Floyd’s death, didn’t feel okay to sit on it any longer. It’s not perfect or complete, but it’s as transparent as I feel at liberty to be right now.

I truly can’t imagine what Breonna’s family, friends and boyfriend must be going through.

As people read that statement, there’s potentially one of two thoughts that can run through the mind:  you may either think, “neither can I” or “I can.” (Perhaps a third, but I’m no mind reader.) 

Just the fact that there is this divide shows us something — it’s not a judgment on the extent of your goodness or wokeness or strength or ability to be a compassionate human being. It’s simply a fact that we must confront: inequality and injustice exists, and it is malicious and cruel, and all of us are complicit in it.

Recently I asked myself if I could genuinely mourn with those who mourn who aren’t in my inner circle of life. Is my heart truly with Breonna’s family, with Ahmaud’s family…with so many families around the world who have been victimized by hatred, violence, and/or injustice? 

To authentically mourn with those who mourn, shouldn’t I first know the value of what or who was lost? Or rather, I must WANT to know and do my best to know and understand the value of the beloved one, or the mourning is somehow…flat.

And by “know” I mean not just intellectually, not just philosophically, not just emotionally, not just as a hashtag or movement, not just because my politics dictate it, not just because my morals and theology necessitate it, because if that were the case then, yea sure, many of us could probably just check all those boxes like a business transaction. 

I mean to know the value of the life that was lost as a real person who has affected my life and this world, heart openly in the design of the Creator who literally gave Himself for that beloved one.

This understanding of the loss of lives as real, breathing, conscious human beings with heartbeats and blood in their veins is at the crux of many our responses to injustice, violence, racism, genocides, homicides, abortions, abuse, rapes, trafficking, prisons, and all the other crimes against humanity that the fallen human imagination has been the progenitor of since Cain murdered Abel.

In other words, this understanding of the loss of lives as real people is at the crux of many our hashtags and responses to them.

If we say that #allLivesmatter and truly believe it, then we will understand why we need to have the voice crying out in the wilderness that #blacklivesmatter. I take BLACK LIVES MATTER as a matter of fact, not as a political statement or movement. I actually think politics clouds the truth of what this statement is saying. (Side note: when I write black lives it’s with the caveat that black is not a monolith, but encompasses a diversity of heritages, cultures, and communities.)

Allow me to explain:

All lives matter is elementary basics. We should have progressed beyond that by now. Yet here we are, in essence debating, “do all lives really matter?” by pushing away the necessity of saying black lives matter—just the fact that we have to say black lives matter, yes these young men and women THEY MATTER!, that we must painfully list their names again and again in a virtual memorial that no government as of yet will pay to materialize (even though wars come in many guises), these facts alone tell us we have failed, and our pride makes us unable to confront this failure. 

We can all agree that there’s no need to state the obvious. And yet, here we are again, stating what is apparently not obvious: that black lives matter because they are valuable lives and all lives matter, and a black life is equal to any other life that you are putting into your category of “all lives”–which apparently does not include the lives of many African Americans, Caribbean Americans, Jamaican Americans, and other Americans that we’ve labeled as black, and that’s why I’m saying it until we get it that, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

black lives matter

tells us that

we don’t believe 

all lives matter

it confronts us

with our own hypocritical geographies

in claiming a Creator

who created out of love

all life and human

and breathed his very breath

into our lungs

and then gave His blood

to make us life-giving spirits

black lives matter

tells us that

we would rather

Genesis and Love

be an intellectual exercise

theological debate

to flex our spiritual muscles

and be satisfied

inside the comfort

of securing our own salvation

and the accompanying smugness

out of our Pharisaical heart, 

“I am better than the [insert X]”

black lives matter

tells us that 

we have failed

to love diverse peoples

the way God sent

His only Son

because He loved the world

black lives matter

confronts us with

our weakness

our entitlement

our hearts that have become flint

our pride

our greed

our selfishness

our envy

our oppression as oppressors

our enslaved soul as sin’s slaves

black lives matter

disrupts

our orderly lives

our panglossian existence

and so we want to push it away

with rhetoric and self-justification

of “what about the unborn!?”

without realizing that it’s two sides

of the same coin of genocide

black lives matter

asks us to be humble, repentant, authentic,

all the things that we don’t want

because it’s like carrying a cross

black lives matter

asks us

to listen, to open our ears

to open our eyes

to hear and see

the generations of evil

to know and understand

like names etched into His hand

the value of each life

and because we don’t

because it is an inconvenience

or it’s too much

to consider the generations of 

trauma, agony, loss, pain, sorrow, heaviness, chains, beatings, shootings, imprisonments, violence, dehumanizing

that our brothers and sisters 

have piled up in their bones,

and sometimes (oftentimes)

it was because of our actions

or lack thereof

we push it away,

distance ourselves

like forgetting 

to do justice

to love kindness

to walk humbly with God

we don’t want it

because we’d rather

just focus on our own healing

because yes I understand

we all hurt

but that shouldn’t make

us forget

that we are one body

if you hurt, i hurt too

and until we let go

surrender

get down on our knees

and confess

our unrighteousness

all of us ask for forgiveness

and begin to listen, to see

we’ll never fully know

the Christ that we confess

or the costly grace we’ve received

black lives matter

challenges us

to be empowered by this 

costly grace,

black lives matter

asks us to believe

that the blood of Christ was enough

and then to live it

because we need

no other blood shed,

Christ’s was enough

for every life.

Justice for Breonna and our black brothers and sisters goes beyond the politics and dynamics of race in America. It speaks to centuries of colonization, imperialism, wars, and oppression of minority groups globally and historically that Christ bled to end, but our pride perpetuates these cycles of iniquity, keeping us in bondage to a dichotomy of oppressor-oppressed, perpetrator-victim. Justice for black lives, for oppressed people groups, speaks to the things veiled in our hearts that we must let God expose and deal with if we are ever going to be a people ready for the return of Christ.

You see, I didn’t know Breonna personally. I didn’t raise her, didn’t watch her grow and excel and choose a career that would help save countless other lives. I didn’t know her jokes or sense of humor, what she sounded like when she sang or prayed, never went to a party with her, never went shopping with her, wasn’t there at her high school graduation, wasn’t there at her 1st or last year’s birthday, wasn’t there when she got her driver’s license or first kiss; I didn’t know her. My grief is different from the grief her family and community feel. And this difference is okay.

This difference in grief is fact and beautiful, but becomes tainted when we use the difference as either an excuse to step away from people, or we overcompensate for it by trying to fabricate a response that’s exactly the same as our brothers and sisters.

In discovering who she is and the unjust way in which she died, and in celebrating her life and the little I do know about her, and in the desire to know more, I find that I can begin to truly mourn—beyond personal emotions, politics, theology, justice rhetoric, morality…but mourn with those who are mourning a beautiful daughter, sister, girlfriend, coworker, friend. Mourn in a way that is different, but authentic and compassionate. Even this writing exercise, these words, is one of the ways I’m mourning.

The effect of centuries of dehumanizing a people group is that you can’t feel the depth of pain when they suffer or the depth of loss when they’re violently taken. The road to that lethal point of apathy is a treacherous one because the fact of their murder is at the end of a long string of injustices perpetrated against them that we have failed to care about and failed to do something about. This is one reason why #blacklivesmatter matters. 

This is why caring about persecuted peoples in China, India, North Korea, the Middle East matters. This is why caring about restitutions to the Native American tribes matters. This is why caring for the elderly, orphans, poor and foreigners and fighting against their abuse matters, why fighting for fair wages matters. This is why stopping human and sex trafficking, and not being complicit in it by supporting the sex/porn industry matters, why making eco-conscious healthy food choices matters, or why things like being faithful, honest, compassionate, just, kind, brave, and all the other trendy words we put on t-shirts and caps aren’t real unless these matters matter as much on the outside as they do when no one’s watching.

The extent to which we are deprogrammed from centuries of dehumanizing entire colonized, enslaved, legalized-as-less-than people groups, and then rewired with the heart and mind of Christ, is the extent to which we can mourn with those who mourn and actually execute true justice. All our politics and grandstanding and morality talk is just cover up at this point, and I’m so tired of it, all of it. I don’t need nor want that posturing anymore. 

I just want restoration, reformation. For my brothers and sisters, for me, for all of us. Justice for black lives is about justice, period.

All of this is coming from the perspective of a 2nd generation Korean American daughter of immigrants whose cultural heritage includes 50 years of oppression by Japanese Colonialism in the context of Western Imperialism, and patriarchal Confucian-Shamanist roots (in which women were traditionally suppressed and could only discover any sense of agency either in the home/private sphere or as a witchcraft shaman–which contributed to my own issues of not knowing how to healthily publicly express anger). I faced all the racism, stereotypes, challenges, limitations as well as privileges (yes, I said it) of being a model-minority Asian and the child of successful, hard-working, God-fearing, sacrificing, visionary immigrants in Southern California. 

My words come from the perspective of a hip-hop loving (think Tupac, Arrested Development, Talib, Lauryn, TLC, Erykah, Common, Fugees, Outkast, Roots, early/recent Kanye), ex-raver, Ivy League graduate who was trained in all the undergrad and grad school rhetoric and theories of postmodern, postcolonial, feminist, deconstructionist thought and critique, with a sprinkling of New Age & Sufi mystic thought added into the mix, but then returned to her Baptist-Pentecostal-Evangelical-Charismatic Christian roots in her late twenties and has spent the past fifteen years mulling over what to make of these competing ideologies in light of her authentic spirit-filled faith and experience of a real, loving, holy and sovereign God.

I think these perspectives is also partly why it’s taken a few years to publicly say anything about inequality and injustice. Not only do I view things from an infinity of angles and possibilities and perspectives because of my experiences and education, and, because of my INFP-ness, have to consider which of those feels/is the most authentic, but I more so felt, to a certain extent, that I didn’t deserve a seat at the table of talks…

But, you know what? I’ve since stopped caring about that, and am now in the place of believing that my voice and perspective, too, really matter in this discussion. Not just as a POC or woman or 2nd generation immigrant or educated academic or missionary or artist. But also just as me, daughter of God.

At times I felt guilty for not saying much or anything, like I was complicit in systems of oppression by being silent. I’ll be honest, I hated it when I would see posts accusing folks of complicity because of their silence. Maybe I hated it because a part of me knew that my silence could be interpreted like that. Maybe I hated it because a part of me was scared to speak what I was really thinking and settled for the stereotype of the quiet Asian girl who doesn’t ruffle feathers.

These were things I simply had to deal with while I collected my emotions and thoughts, while I grieved and mourned in my spirit. Sometimes, there are no words when your spirit is groaning/growing. Sometimes, you don’t want the world of social media to witness your private sorrow and inner tumult because you can barely make space and time for it in daily life. Sometimes you refrain from speaking because you know it would be, ultimately, just self-indulgence.

The other reason why it’s taken time is because justice matters encompass so, so much; it’s not limited to present day modern murrica. The deaths of these young black men, women and children were just as much about the unjust and cruel murder of individual life as it is about systemic historical oppression. About justice and empowerment for all minority and subjugated lives born and unborn. About war histories and willing or forced migrations of people groups. About colonization and its aftermath, and how do we heal and grow from there, how do we corporately forgive without pointing fingers? About generational sins and original sin and its historical and global consequences. About the cross and forgiveness. About the ekklesia becoming as Christ intended when He bled for the Church and this world. These unjust deaths were just as much about all of this as they were about truly knowing Jesus…about love.

For me, justice for black lives is an entry point into the rhizome and constellation of our authentic faith, of obeying the command of Jesus to love God and love one another, of overcoming sin and becoming our authentic selves in Christ, of becoming the Body that He bled for, of Him receiving His full reward and of us preparing for His return…

As you can see, I still find it difficult to give these lives the honor and space and time they each deserve without jumping into the grand constellation. Each star shines, each root is beautiful, and sometimes in getting lost in the milky way, I’ve forgotten to slow down and honor each of those stars, named and unnamed. But, at the end of the day, that’s where I want to be. Because I suspect that’s where Jesus is too. Mourning, celebrating, with them.

For Breonna and her family—

*for George Floyd and his family

for Ahmaud Arbery and his family

for Bothem Sean and his family

for Jonathan Ferrell and his family

for Stephon Clark and his family

for Jordan Edwards and his family

for Jordan Davis and his family

for Alton Sterling and his family

for Aiyana Jones

for Mike Brown

for Tamir Rice

for Charleston9

for Trayvon Martin

for Sean Bell

for Oscar Grant

for Sandra Bland

for Philando Castile

for Corey Jones

for John Crawford

for Terrence Crutcher

for Keith Scott

for Clifford Glover

for Claude Reese

for Yvonne Smallwood

for Amadou Diallo

for Walter Scott

for Eric Garner

for Freddie Gray

and all your families—

for what it’s worth, thank you and I’m sorry.

I’m celebrating your lives, mourning your cruel deaths, but mostly just standing/kneeling with you.

*wish I didn’t need to add another name between the time I originally wrote this and the time I posted.

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