the art of acceptance

This weekend has been one of the most violent in our nation’s history.

It breaks my heart to see cities, including my own, being torn apart at the seams. 


Due to the ever-increasing negativity of the media, I cancelled my cable subscription at the beginning of the year. That said, I didn’t know about the riots here in Atlanta until I had multiple friends text me asking if I was safe. 


I quickly opened YouTube and found a live news feed from our local 11 Alive news station showing the escalating tensions in downtown.


I knew there were peaceful protests for George Floyd going on across the nation during the day, but the scene from downtown Friday night was a full-on riot. 


Going to sleep that night, I never imagined I’d wake up the next day to see my own neighborhood destroyed.


Glass windows shattered at the grocery store I shop at, looting at small businesses I love, restaurants I eat at regularly being boarded up due to damage and in hopes that they would not be vandalized again the next night. 


It was surreal.


Saturday night, my girlfriend and I went to eat dinner with two couples to celebrate a friend’s birthday. When we arrived, the hostess informed us that we would need to eat quickly in order to obey the Mayor’s 9 PM curfew. 


On our drive home, we passed armored military vehicles and armed National Guardsmen protecting the shops along Peachtree Road in Buckhead. 

Our neighborhood looked more like a war zone than an American city.  


As much as I wanted to fight the urge, I decided to turn on the live news feed again to see the state of affairs across the United States.


The cameras jumped from Minneapolis to Brooklyn, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, Philadelphia, and others showing similar scenes of cars burning, tear gas filling the air, flash bangs exploding, arrests being made, the looting of businesses, shattering glass, and unspeakable violence between the crowds and law enforcement. 


Of all the images I saw Saturday night, one is seared into my mind. 


A reporter from ABC was on the streets of New York and was asked to describe the scene. As soon as he started talking, a man behind him who was part of the protest began to shout, “This is not news!” 


The reporter continued to talk as loud as he could to make his voice heard through the medical mask he was wearing, but every word was drowned out by the shouts of the protestor behind him yelling, “This is not news!”


This time, the man added to his statement by saying, “This is not news! This is pain.” 


ABC cut the feed immediately, and without acknowledging what just happened, moved to a report from Washington D.C.


While ABC had moved on, I was stuck on the statement from the streets of New York. “This is not news. This is pain.


He was right. 


It was at that moment I became aware of what was really happening. There are people across our country who are hurting, myself included, after watching the heinous murder of a black man, George Floyd, by a police officer in Minneapolis.


George’s death is a microcosm of the macrocosm of racism and descrimination that has plagued our country for its entire existence. 


While the protests were widely peaceful and justified, the small pockets of violence were getting all of the attention. 


No one brought cameras to the scene to catch shots of people in pain due to the loss of George Floyd’s life. No news media outlet sent crews out to report on the injustice of black people in this country or to support them in their time of need.


They sent reporters and news crews out to catch the best angles of the most graphic violence pornography to feed our lust and hunger for sadism

As much as it pains me to say it this way, it’s the truth.


It took a protestor on the streets of New York yelling behind a reporter on national television to realize that I was as guilty as anyone watching Saturday night.


This isn’t news. This is pain.


We live in a world with an insatiable appetite for violence. This isn’t news. 

We live in a world with systemic injustices and racism. This isn’t news.

We live in a world riddled with fear and uncertainty. This isn’t news.


This is pain. 


When I hear stories from my black friends about the daily encounters and emotions they experience, my stomach turns. I want to believe that these kinds of things don’t happen today. I want to believe that we as a society have progressed toward Dr. King’s dream becoming a reality. 


Most of all, I want to believe that I have not made anyone feel the way I am hearing that my friends feel. 


But to believe that would be to believe a fantasy.


Phil Collins wrote a song in 1985 made famous by the Disney movie, “Tarzan” called “Strangers Like Me.” I have loved this song for decades, but never before have I seen it in the light I see it in today. 


“Whatever you do, I'll do it too

Show me everything and tell me how

It all means something

And yet nothing to me 


I can see there's so much to learn

It's all so close and yet so far

I see myself as people see me

Oh, I just know there's something bigger out there 


I want to know, can you show me

I want to know about these strangers like me

Tell me more, please show me

Something's familiar about these strangers like me... 

-----

Come with me now to see my world

Where there's beauty beyond your dreams

Can you feel the things I feel

Right now, with you

Take my hand

There's a world I need to know 


I want to know, can you show me

I want to know about these strangers like me

Tell me more, please show me

Something's familiar about these strangers like me 


...I want to know”


I will never know what it is like to be black in America. 


I will never know what it’s like to feel the way you feel or to see the things you’ve seen. 


But I want to know. Will you show me?


I want to hear it from you. I want to talk about race relations with you, and I want to hear your thoughts and feelings straight from the source. 


I want to know. Will you show me?


I want to feel comfortable bringing these things to light. I want to ask questions without being embarrassed or scared. I want to laugh with you. I want to cry with you. I want to walk with you and talk with you. I want to eat with you and pray with you. 


I want to know. Will you show me?


Today I feel like a stranger like you, and I can imagine you feel it too. 


Sometimes it seems like we’re so close, but at times like this, we realize how far we still have to go. I can’t speak for everyone today, but I can speak for me. 


I’m willing to go, but I need you to take me there. I am a stranger like you. 

I want to know. Will you show me?


abundantly,


hamilton winters