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It’s time to share the burdens of fear

April 16, 2021, 10:10 PM UTC

The fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by the Chicago police spark protests, a new documentary sheds light on six survivors of the Titanic, and the Methodist church welcomes its first drag queen minister-candidate.

But first, here’s your heartbreaking police shooting week in review, Haiku.

It wasn’t a gun:
It was a wallet, a cell
phone, a toy. They

weren’t suspects: They
were customersmotorists,
jogging, or sleeping.

Now they’re names scrawled on
protest signs, a high price to
pay for driving while,

breathing while, being
someone’s Black or brown child at
the wrong place at the

wrong time. When will be
the right time to be someone’s
sweet Black or brown child?

Take a well-earned break this weekend.

Ellen McGirt

In Brief

One of the most unexpectedly horrific aspects of the race beat has been viewing videos of people of color being shot and or killed, typically — but not always — by the police. I do it because I’m obligated as a reporter to understand events and context. But I also do it to spare others from needing to watch them. It’s all too much. But, says Allissa Richardson, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California and author of Bearing Witness While Black, they are still a necessary record.

“We need them for now, because America is still waking up to the fact that this happens,” she says, referring to white America. Otherwise, “[w]hite people have distance, they can look away.” But for other folks, it’s terrorizing. “Many Black people see themselves or a relative in the body of the person who’s lying on the ground. The chill that goes through us is that it’s so easy to take a life of a black person in America and face little to no repercussion.”

That said, I deeply dread the task. I know the viewing has created a wound in me that I secretly fear will never heal.

It took me a minute, then, to notice what it meant that my white husband had begun watching the videos before I do.

He started with the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and hasn’t stopped. “Just in case,” he said the first time. “I’ll watch just in case it’s nothing for you to worry about.” Maybe, it won’t be my beat. Not my business. Not a hate crime or misconduct. And yet, it always is. He breaks it to me gently. “Hey honey, I’m sorry but I think you’re going to need to pay attention to this.”

From Ahmaud through George Floyd, and now Adam Toledo, he’s had plenty of opportunities to get there first. It has become his own grim beat and it means the world to me.

What he has learned to do is something that I’m now trying to teach myself to do: He has learned to share my fear. Not to explain it away or diminish it. Not to co-opt it; he will never feel the existential terror I feel for the police. But what he can do is notice that the world is dangerous for other people in very specific ways. His viewing the videos acknowledges their role in my life, and as a result, I feel less terrorized, certainly less alone. So, sometimes he gets there first and simply waits. It helps enormously.

I now see this as an important way to be an ally. The job is equal parts simple and hard: To notice, if not perfectly understand, the unique pain experienced by someone different from you and stand near them. The world is dangerous for Asian Americans in ways that are different for me. The world is dangerous for Muslims in ways that are different for me. The world is cruel to people with physical disabilities in ways that are different for me. How can I learn to carry a corner of their fear? All the other work must continue, of course. If you are in a position of any sort of privilege, it remains incumbent upon you to understand where barriers exist for others and do your part in dismantling them. But to share someone's fear — I think — is to join their condition just enough to see the world through their eyes, if even for a moment. And I believe this framing can inform relationships, systems, and policies. 

So now, this is my my quest— to better understand what sharing fear can look like. Will you share it with me?


On Point

Protests mount after release of video showing fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo Peaceful protests were held in Chicago overnight, some made their way to Chicago Police Headquarters. "He put his hands up and was still murdered. So I have a question: what more could he have done?" Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef, Chicago Activist Coalition for Justice told the local ABC News affiliate.
ABC News

The United Methodist Church welcomes its first drag queen candidate for ministry His name is Isaac Simmons — or Ms. Penny Cost while in drag — and evidently, he is bringing some delightful sparkle to virtual services at Hope United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois. (Their most recent Drag Sunday is a glorious celebration of inclusion, hope, and wigs.) Simmons, 23, is currently Hope United’s director of operations and was unanimously certified as a candidate for ministry by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference’s Vermillion River District Committee on Ordained Ministry. Praise be.
Religion News

The Chinese survivors of the Titanic who have been erased from history A new documentary, set to debut today in China, tells the brutal story of six Chinese Titanic passengers who survived only to be harassed, threatened, barred from entry in the U.S., and smeared in the press. "It does highlight that these are, these are not new problems," Steven Schwankert, the film's lead researcher, tells NBC News. "I wish I could say that we're so wise now and those things are fixed. But the same kind of misunderstanding and, unfortunately, the same kind of hostility still exists today." Lee Bing, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Ling Hee, Ah Lam and Chung Foo were professional mariners traveling to their next jobs, but later branded as stowaways. It gets worse from there.
NBC News


On background

How learning Indigenous language might help with climate change This fascinating piece explores the deep understanding of sustainability and the environment that is embedded in ancient, Indigenous languages, many of which are dying out. While reclaiming them would be a good and important thing culturally, there may be something equally vital in play. “When your language dies, your worldview dies with it. The actual structure of the language holds so much of that worldview,” says Ashley Fairbanks, an Anishinaabe Ojibwe woman the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota, who has been studying the Ojibwe language.

Resources for educators, librarians and education program leaders on comic books Yes, they are art forms. Yes, they are inclusive. And yes, plenty of myths abound that keep gatekeepers from embracing them as part of their collections or curriculum. But with their groundbreaking storylines and inclusive characters, they can be essential tools for reaching kids who are not served by more “traditional” fare.  Luckily, The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is here to help with an incredible treasure trove of resources, history and knowledge. “We strive to create inclusive library collections that reflect a diverse global community. But what happens when members of the school community challenge or attempt to ban such inclusive materials?” Bonus: If you’re a comic book creator or retailer, they can help you apply for PPP and EIDL assistance.
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund


This edition of raceAhead is edited by Daniel Bentley.

Today's mood board

The WNBA pulled a design for a new Dallas Wings jersey after it was pointed out the organization it celebrated excluded Black women. The jersey was created in honor of women who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) corps during World War II. However, no Black applicants, despite many being qualified, were accepted to the program. (via TIME)