Oh America, you’ve provided the world with yet another reminder of your sordid history with terrorism against black people.  I’ve explained to a few people over the last six months that while social media has brought to light the brutality faced by people of color, these things aren’t new.  No, they are in fact very, very old.  My brother and I, as well as everyone of color we knew, grew up being taught how to act just to appease white people.  “Don’t say anything too controversial or they may get offended”, “Don’t wear this, style your hair like that, do anything that may make you stand out even more than your brown skin does, because it may upset them”.  I’ve never been very good at behaving in the approved manner.  This post will be a glaring example of that.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  

Last night a white male walked into a historically black church in the south, he was given admission into a black safe haven, he was welcomed.  Then he killed nine people.  People of color.  People with ambitions, goals, and families.  Stolen from their community, because we’ve yet to really address the issues with race that we have in this country.  Instead, we hide behind the thinly-veiled lie of colorblindness and prayer.  Prayer, America’s quick band-aid.  My newsfeed this morning is alive with prayers for the families and community in SC.  It’s the ultimate easy button.  Why get involved?  Why shine a light on the deeply disturbing history of terrorism against blacks, browns, and tans in this country, especially in their houses of worship, when you can just pray about it?

Does prayer actually solve anything, though?  No, it doesn’t.  Let’s look at it from a logical standpoint.  By current Abrahamic theology, an all-powerful, all-knowing male figure that goes by the name God controls everything.  Everything.  From the patches in my yard that are brown instead of green to the results of sporting events. And that natural disaster?  God did it.  And those dead black bodies staining America’s history, God allowed those too.  So, what are we praying for?  For him to make it all better?  To comfort the families who will forever be incomplete?  For blacks to not lose their shit over another hate crime perpetrated against our community?  

You can hit your knees and intertwine your fingers all day long.  You can fill up social media with quickly pieced together prayer memes and a few sentences between your Instagram photos of your breakfast, but you aren’t actually doing anything.   You’re patting each other on the backs for showing concern and then going about your day, while the black community gets another example of hatred to add to the box, another set of names for the list of brothers and sisters taken far too soon.

I know, I hear the grumbles starting, “But what can we do?”  Get off your damn knees and seek out ways that you can actually DO something, that's what you can do.  Don’t just sit there and say “I don’t know what to do”, look for things to do.  If you can find all those cat pictures you share, you can also find ways to break down the centuries-long hate that built this country and is still neatly woven into the fabric of the flags everyone will be waving in a couple of weeks.  

Reach out to your local NAACP chapter and other organizations in your community that work with minorities, and NOT while wearing blackface. Rally your church to do something other than offer up a moment of silence this Sunday.  Challenge the people around you who will begin the cycle of whitewashing, providing every excuse under the sun why this happened instead of addressing the actual cause of it.  Challenge the media outlets around you that have, and will continue to, describe the suspect as a “quiet young man who no one ever expected to commit such crimes”.  Call out the glaring inconsistencies in police and judicial treatment when he is ultimately taken, unharmed, and given a supposedly fair trial that will paint him as a troubled young man who made a mistake instead of the hateful terrorist he really is.  Even though we all know that if the shoe was on the other foot this is not how things would transpire.  

Use your voice for something other than empty prayers that don’t impact the course of our society at all. That's what YOU can do.

Copyright(c) 2015 Rayven Holmes

We all carry the scars of life.  We bleed our failures.  Taste the salty tears of regret.  Our flesh burns with unfilled dreams, hopes, and desires.  We’re all painted from a palette of brokenness, a palette that carries our own unique shades.  Are these beautiful scars all that gets to define us, or is there more?  What have the scars left?  Resilience?  Determination?  Strength?  Self-love?  

As I stand in my bathroom running my hands over the skin that greets this world, I can’t help but see the scars the world can’t see.  To me, they are clear as the blemishes that dot my face.  I use to believe that my scars, these beautiful badges of torment, defined me.  I believed they were all that got to tell my story.  They don’t, though, instead they are just one piece of a larger puzzle.  

An incomplete puzzle kept hidden for fear that the scars would distort the image that the world would inevitably consume.  But the scars are no reason to hide the puzzle, especially when it’s far easier to build it in the light of day.  Just because I’m sitting down to, finally, build my puzzle for the world to see, doesn’t mean I have to give them the power to determine the final form.  

No, that power rest with me.  

We are not defined by gods, religions, nor mankind.  We define ourselves and always should. No excuses and no substitutions.
“Never be bullied into silence.  Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”~  Harvey Fierstein

Experiencing the sublime.  I have to admit, when Karen first mentioned an episode on the sublime my mind instantly went back to the 90s.  Me, standing in my bedroom, giant headphones firmly affixed to my ears, and the gritty sound of rock music piercing my eardrums.  My father hated my music, still does.  At least I wasn't practicing Santeria, and while I would have easily spent a million dollars then, I’d like to think I would be a bit more cautious with my money now.  Either way, I shook the 90s flashbacks, and atrocious use of song lyrics, from my mind and focused on the task at hand.  The idea of experiencing the sublime and how one does it when they’re godless?

First, the notion that the sublime is reserved just for the believer is preposterous.  In a world of unspeakable majesty how can anyone stake claim to it?  We know the processes involved in creating a glorious sunset, we can name the chemicals responsible for the overwhelming joy that parents experience when they hold their children, and we have devices that capture all the awe-inspiring moments of our lives.   We download and upload these moments hundreds of times for others to see.  One doesn’t need belief in a puppetmaster in order to appreciate the world, and all of its majesty, just as it is.   

What does experiencing the sublime mean for me, though?  What causes me to transcend this short little life of mine?  For me, it’s those moments when the world stands still and it’s just you and those you love.  It’s seeing someone, really seeing them, basking in their humanity and appreciating that they exist in this world right along with you.  The sublime, for me, is the sight of my children running through a sea of falling cherry blossoms and being too into the moment to even bother reaching for my camera.  For me, I transcend this plane of human existence when the awe of this universe, this planet, and its people take my breath away and remind me of my own humanity.  No matter how big or small those moments are, they exist without a god, and I find that I appreciate them more now than I ever did as a believer.  And for that, I’m grateful.    
Were you so busy experiencing the sublime that you missed the Experiencing the Sublime episode?  Don’t worry, I missed it too and I was suppose to be there!  Never fear, though, because I’ve embedded it below.  After you’ve enjoyed that episode, take a peek at our newest episode in the sidebar right over there ------>

Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes