I’m going to share something that happened to me this week in New York City. An alarming incident of sorts.
And before I begin, quick shoutout: mom and dad, please don’t freak out.
As you all are very well aware, over the past week, NYC has been rocked by protestors, and completely brought to its knees by looters/rioters.
And please note the distinction: the one group is not the other. Protestors = good; looters = bad.
But shops, restaurants, banks, retail, everything – is boarded up. Meanwhile, every New Yorker is glued to their phone, with one eye on the Citizen Neighborhood Crime Alert App, and the other eye looking out the window, canvassing the street below for violence or suspicious activity.
Or maybe that’s just me.
But it is a New York I have never known before. One of anger, distrust, and defiance. Nevermind the fact that everyone is pissed about being under curfew.
So: On Monday or Tuesday of this past week, it was 7:45, just a few minutes before curfew began at 8, and I had just stepped outside for literally 5 minutes to sit in the park across the street for some fresh air before I had to be locked up in my stifling hot apartment for the night.
And I had stopped to take a photo by the flowers, when out of nowhere, this young man ran up to me with a camera. He was filming.
And – nevermind violating social distancing, and not wearing a mask – this young man got right up in my face with his camera, and started yelling at me.
He shouted, “Excuse me, Miss. Miss. I’m with Black Lives Matter, and if you don’t take a knee like Kaepernick right here right now, you are a racist! Take a knee! Take a knee!”
Terrified, I kind of fumbled for words.
And noticing my hesitation, he continued the rant, yelling that I have white privilege and need to acknowledge it and apologize for it by taking a knee, and some other rhetoric, that to be completely honest, I have no idea what else he said because my mind was racing.
I was absolutely shell shocked and scared in that moment. I was alone. I had no idea who this man was, filming me. And he was so angry and being so derogative towards me. Was he going to hurt me if I didn’t take a knee?
This wasn’t me being quick-to-judge, but rather acting from the fact that the past several nights, the streets of New York were truly dangerous: rioters setting fire to cop cars and trash cans, looters breaking into stores and stealing, lawless behavior running rampant. I was scared for my life.
And so I quickly took a knee and then got the hell out of there.
Obviously, I was completely shaken. I called my friends, but decided not to tell my parents, because they already couldn’t sleep with all the violence going on in Manhattan.
But I shook it off, because at the end of the day, I wasn’t really in danger, and I just chalked it up to some guy trying to get a viral instagram video.
I was listening to a podcast, and one of the headlines was how this viral YouTube “LiveStreamer” named ‘Smooth Sanchez’ was going around Manhattan, making caucasian women get on their knees and apologize for their white privilege, and then livestreaming it for the masses on the internet.
They played a clip of it on the podcast, and sure enough — this Smooth Sanchez guy — was the same guy who got in my face just four days before.
Upon further research, I learned that he’s been doing this “On Your Knees” stunt all week, with every 2+ hour video upload getting more and more views and comments.
I did not watch them, because I didn’t want to know if I was, in fact, depicted on the video — without my consent, I might add.
Now, if you could – table that for just a moment. And allow me to bring up a really powerful, one-line message that a I heard this weekend during one of Fr. Mike Schmitz’ homilies. He was addressing the topic of racism, and it can all be boiled down to this one, very simple and profound statement: “As Christians, we are called to carry each other’s burdens.”
Which finally put into words what was so unsettling about not only that isolated incident in the park, but also the state of the world at large.
We are called to carry each other’s burdens. Every single person was made in God’s image and likeness. And because God is love, our deepest identity is to love.
And by that very fact that we are creations of God – each one of us has a dignity that cannot be taken away.
But sadly, throughout history, and devastatingly even still today, our black brothers and sisters have had that dignity oppressed — either outright, systematically, or underlyingly.
And that is a terrible terrible stain on humanity. One that is unforgivable. And one that needs to change, immediately.
And as one family in Christ, we are commanded to seek justice for the oppressed, and love and stand by our hurting brothers and sisters.
And that’s where the confusion comes in: yes – protesting peacefully and nonviolently for my oppressed sisters and brothers — that is what we are called to do as Christians, and where I personally stand on this issue.
But I do not support violence or looting or rioting.
Which is also why this Smooth Sanchez situation is so upsetting.
This man was going around touting that he was with Black Lives Matter — a movement that I respect, and support. But that was the first thing he shouted at me. ((And I fully acknowledge that this man is not representative of the entire BLM. This man was a lone wolf, I’m sure.))
But that bullying and harassment isn’t going to solve anything. What good does it do to publicly shame — or scare — people into genuflecting at the alter of “wokeness”? That’s not how you solve things. That’s not how you change hearts. You change hearts through communication. Through awareness. Through love – working together, as one family.
And you find resolution through taking on one another’s burdens, in love.
The contrast between those two episodes, gave me a real juxtaposition in thought that, frankly, I probably haven’t done a very good job at articulating, but then you know what? I think another important thing to do these days is to extend one another grace, as we’re all navigating these eggshell-waters to the best of our abilities.
One last thought. I want to close with a quote from the Friars of the Renewal: a brotherhood in the South Bronx here in Manhattan. They released this statement this week, in response to all the violence, which succinctly articulates exactly how I feel.
“We stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters who desire to speak…We recognize that passivity in the face of racism is a sin of omission for which we are accountable before God and is in direct contradiction with an authentically prolife worldview….’Solidarity is an eminently Christian virtue.‘” – Franciscan Friars of the Renewal 6/3/20
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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