Author: Anthony Murdock II of Butler University
I woke up, in the heat of the night, sweating and panting, wondering what in God’s name was my purpose? I had no sense of self, I had no sense of direction, I didn’t know where I was from, I didn’t know where I was going–I was lost.
I sat down after my afternoon run, grabbed a bottle of water, and laid on the across my back on the driveway, staring up into the sky. I was feeling the sweat drip down my face, I was watching my diaphragm expand and deflate with every breath, and I could hear the beat of my heart through my ear drums–I was alive. But for what? I just ran for an hour, through different neighborhoods, across various landscapes and saw so much. But each time I finish, I look inside myself and can find nothing.
I stood, hand interlocked with my sister to my right and cousin to my left, eyes open looking at the pastor as he gives the benediction. I see so much purpose and conviction in his eyes, and as he scans the room, connecting to individuals, giving tidbits of hope and encouragement to survive the next six days before uniting again next Sunday. Then he makes eye contact with me; in his eyes, I see a life of faith and fulfillment, but I look back at him with a stare so empty and open that his conviction slips into my eyes, bounce around like a ball in an empty gym, only to be greeted by nothingness. I am in a room of 500 people who each heard the same Word that I heard, some of them so convicted that they make that walk down to the altar and give their life to the Lord–but I stand, lost in the sauce of solitude seeking to find a purpose, a reason to exist.
Above are three different people, experiencing three different predicaments, expressing three different perspectives, but each yearn for ONE thing–a purpose. While I don’t find myself personifying any of those three people, I do often find myself wondering who I am supposed to become in this world that God created. The world is so big and diverse and complex that I minimize myself and the impact I can have, both consciously and unconsciously, and if I am not careful, I find myself in a place of discouragement and hopelessness.
But I have the opportunity to find out who I am supposed to be in my community. Each of the hypothetical people I described above will wake up the next day, on a journey towards finding who they are and what they are to become. They, like myself, will have the opportunity to encounter new experiences; embrace new relationships; encourage dialogue and healthy discourse with new perspectives.
But Trayvon Martin no longer has that opportunity.
But Sandra Bland no longer has that opportunity.
But Tamir Rice no longer has that opportunity.
But Kisha Michael no longer has that opportunity.
But Philando Castile no longer has that opportunity.
I am troubled by the climate of our nation. Not because of the racial tension–I have come to grips with the reality that this country is rooted in economic and social inequality, inequity and incompetence. I am troubled because the climate of our nation highlights an inability to see, both with our eyes and our hearts, the life in our neighbor.
And this inability to see the humanity in our neighbor is edified in a number of ways: through our school curricula, legislative process, economic practices, neighborhood demographics, and the list goes on. However, at the forefront of this campaign that disengages the ability for one to see the life in another, is our law enforcement and its relationship to the community. There is a grand dehumanization of blacks by law enforcement and ALSO a grand dehumanization of police officers by blacks. The reason for this dehumanization lies in the historical narrative of this country, but the edification of this dehumanization was put on display this past summer, and this past spring, and all of 2015, all of 2014, 2012 and 2013 too, the list goes on.
See, just like me, Brotha Trayon, Sista Sandra, Brotha Tamir and Sista Kisha and Brotha Philando woke up every morning, looking to become someone and something in this big, diverse and complex world. They were on their journey towards expressing and sharing their unique humanity on others–but were robbed of their opportunity!! And they were robbed of that opportunity at the hands of those who are tasked and trained and entrusted with the responsibility to serve and protect. Why? Because in the eyes of those fallen brothas and sistas, the police saw not life, but a body “so empty and open” that the lead from their bullets or the hate in their blood or the ignorance in their understanding had to fill them.
See, just like me, Senior Cpl. Ahrens, Officer Krol, Sgt. Smith, Officer Thompson and Officer Zamarripa, woke up every morning, looking to become someone and something in this big, diverse and complex world. They were on their journey towards expressing and sharing their unique humanity on others–but were robbed of their opportunity!! And they were robbed of that opportunity at the hands of those who they were tasked and trained and entrusted with the responsibility to serve and protect. Why? Because behind the vest and uniform of those fallen officers, the murderer saw not life, but a body “so empty and open”, that the lead from their bullets or the hate in their blood or the ignorance in their understanding had to fill them.
I am coming to understand that my purpose in life–which I define as the reason God put me on Earth–is to actively advocate and aid in the efforts to liberate the underrepresented and marginalized. As a black man in the United States, I cannot and WILL not deny the blatant, systemic and sustainable disenfranchisement, detainment and deviation of the African-American in the media, classroom and courtroom. Thus, I am dedicated to fully-investing my life into the advocacy and liberation for my people, my Black-American people. This call to advocate and liberate demands a number of responsibilities, but at the forefront is a value for the life of my fellow human being. If I cannot recognize the human in my neighbor, whether the wear blue or not, I have participated in the very same dehumanization that I openly work to indict and end. Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule, says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This rule calls for me, us, to treat our neighbor with a respect for their humanity, just as we demand a respect for our humanity.
The moment one refuses to see the life, the humanity, in their neighbor, their neighbor no longer has value or significance in their eye. Thus, any action taken towards that neighbor is excusable and inherently justified, because the action wasn’t taken towards a person, but rather a body “so empty and open” that the process of dehumanization is only appropriate.
Our national climate demands a national response. A response that is cohesive, contemporary and courageous. And this response cannot come from a place from hate or ignorance or the barrel of a gun, but a common place–founded upon the principles humanity and respect. Founding a response upon these principles will lead to a sustainable solution to this systemic problem because it delineates the power structures that perpetuate these problems, and creates an environment that allows those who have been disenfranchised, detained and deviated the opportunity to express the truth and indict the ignorance, all in an effort to move forward in the name of justice.
I am committing to seeing the humanity in my neighbor–now #seemyhumanity.