God, What I Want for My Birthday Is: A Black Lives Matter Lament

18 My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
    my heart is sick.
19 Hark, the cry of my poor people
    from far and wide in the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
    Is her King not in her?”
(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
    with their foreign idols?”)
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
    and we are not saved.”
21 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
    I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
    Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of my poor people
    not been restored?
Jeremiah 8:18-22 (NRSV)

Today is my birthday. I am so grateful to be here and am grateful for every breath that has kept me here, and I thank God for every breath that I will be given in the future.  

However, there are some who are no longer breathing. I must mourn for them today instead of celebrating my birthday. I must lament for them before I forget their names and faces. 

Today is my birthday. If someone had told me on my previous birthday that our nation and our world would be where it is right now, I would not have believed them. Yet, we are here and yet, I feel like/know we’ve been here before.

Can I talk about how I fear that all of the protesting that is being done right now will not change anything? Can I talk about how I fear that what will happen is this: we are going to cry about this and some kind white folks will join us in our cry, but then as soon as we are done, white people will forget, and we will forget until the next time it happens. 

We’ve been here so many times, especially in the last twenty years, but for more years than any of us have been here on this planet and in this country. I just can’t/don’t want to take it anymore. With each death of an unarmed black person, I get sicker and sicker to my stomach as numbness masking pain seeps into my bones, blood, head and heart. I can no longer hope in a system run by people hell bent on killing just because our skin is a deeper shade than theirs. 

I am tired of hearing our voices each time a white person kills one of us. I am tired of feeling like it really doesn’t matter. I am tired of feeling like nothing we do or say or have done or said matters. The fact remains that we keep getting killed simply for being alive. 

Maybe, we should accept this. We’ve been doing this song and dance with white folks for over 400 years. They have been putting their knees on our necks since they brought us here and I have no confidence that they are able to change. Is it just in their nature to want to kill us? 

Maybe something happened, long before any of us who are here got here. Maybe it happened in the Garden or post-Garden when Cain killed Able. Maybe it was during the caveman era when it went down. Something must have happened between us and the white folks that has caused them to treat us worse than they treat anyone else. 

Maybe it goes further back than that or further away than that. Are they some aliens from another planet who were oppressed by us on that planet? Are we in a multiverse residing on earth-1 and they are really from earth-10 where black folks are the oppressors? 

Indulge me here, I am on my third month of binge-watching DC comic shows on Netflix. 

Maybe they came here from earth-10 and realized that we were not oppressors but were simply minding our own business in Africa and were vulnerable enough to be oppressed. Is this payback for some doppelgangers on another earth? What is going on here God?

Maybe God sent us here to be punished for our sins, for our past idolatry of some sort. Maybe this is our form of hell. Maybe we did more than let Eve eat that fruit and God said, “enough with you folks. I am sending you to hell on earth-1.” 

Please God, tell me what is going on here. Answer Marvin Gaye’s question. Tell Billie Holiday to stop singing about strange fruit. Please help these white folks to get up off our necks, to stop sending bullets through our innocent running bodies, to stop weighing us down with layers of oppression manifested in a myriad of ways, to stop drowning us in our own blood. God, please at least tell us what is going on? What is really, going on here?

God, if you can’t stop them from killing us, can you at least stop us from dying the most from Covid-19? I am asking because while black people are out in the streets protesting, I know that we are being exposed even more to this virus that seems to share white people’s hatred for black bodies. 

Why is that God? Why do we get the worst of everything? Why can’t we at least get a break from one thing? Were we some type of overachievers in another life or on another earth that now causes us to overachieve in getting sick and getting killed? What’s going on here God? 

In case you are asleep God or no longer love us, here is what has happened….

On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, an unarmed 25-year-old African American man, was fatally shot while jogging in his neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, was fatally shot in her own home by Louisville police officers while they were serving a warrant for suspected drugs. No drugs were found in her home.

On May 25, 2020, George Perry Floyd, a 59-year-old black man and father, was killed in Minneapolis over a $20 bill. During an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kept his knee on the side of Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down. Where is the $20 bill now?

According to the APM Research Lab…

The latest overall COVID-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is 2.4 times as high as the rate for Whites and 2.2 times as high as the rate for Asians and Latinos.

As of May 27, 2020, aggregated deaths from COVID-19 in these 40 states and the District of Columbia have reached new highs for all groups:

  • 1 in 1,850 Black Americans has died (or 54.6 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 4,000 Latino Americans has died (or 24.9 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 4,200 Asian Americans has died (or 24.3 deaths per 100,000)
  • 1 in 4,400 White Americans has died (or 22.7 deaths per 100,000)

God, I know you are busy and all. I know that my birthday is only one of many that is taking place today. I know this lament is one of billions being offered up today. Yet, my heart feels that instead of a cake, a Zoom party, flowers, or even chocolate, I need something more.

God, in short, I say all of this to ask for me and for every black life that I truly hope matters to you, that what I want for my birthday God is this… that I/we live to see my/our next or am I/we the next?