My Dear Sister Brandi:
I had hoped to commence this letter, well, better. You know, with some poetic imagery – a rainbow, a placid meadow, maybe a playground full of children, or even a carefully selected quote from Dr. King. One of the conciliatory ones that appear on memes and signature lines of e-mails to make the quoter feel better about themselves. You know the quotes, and the quoters well. They are your antithesis.
But, I have no such opening. No such commencement. I have no such opening because, primarily, I don’t believe you would read such a letter with a trite beginning. But, more importantly, flowery is not the path that God chose for you. Not in the least.
In fact, God has chosen a path for you that is both beautiful and tragic all at once.
You are, in a word, a sinner. And I don’t suggest you are a sinner of the Seven Deadly variety. I certainly don’t mean to imply that you are an “all have, and fallen short” kind of sinner either. As Tupac amply notes, only God can judge.
Yours is a far more troubling sin in this world, apparently. Your sin is that you wake up every day with a deep and abiding love for your people, and a desire to help them to achieve unfettered greatness.
Your sin is that you see us through a lens that was created by grinding love, and hope and struggle with a mortar and pestle. It is not a rose-colored lens, to be sure. You see us as we are and how we will be.
And as a result of this sin, you have developed an acute ability to not only see inherently oppressive, sexist, and racist systems that others cannot (because they are paid not to), but also to speak truth to them. To call them unfair. To demand them to change.
This transgression of yours has consequences, however. Some I’m certain you anticipated, and some you didn’t.
You no doubt expected push back from the oppressive establishments to which you are speaking truth. It is difficult for oppressors to acknowledge they oppress. It is difficult for them to share power. As you have said on a number of occasions, there is a certain fragility that accompanies oppression.
But, perhaps what you did not anticipate is the lack of support you receive from very people God called you to protect and save.
What you did not anticipate, perhaps, is that your walk would be as lonely and pride-swallowing as it is sometimes.
I imagine you feel like the black jelly bean that’s left in the bag of Easter jelly beans, or even the one sober, brilliant person in the nightclub that sits at the bar alone, because everyone is afraid to approach you.
You may be alone, but you are in good company. Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis and Sojourner Truth all reported that they felt the exact same way for liberating a broken people.
But, for every sin, for every sinner, there is always a path for salvation.
It occurs to me that your salvation must not come from being more careful and conciliatory with your words, attempting to “work within the system,” or simply being quiet.
Your salvation will and must come from you continuing to do exactly what you are doing right now. Your salvation will come from you continuing to fight as God has called you.
For every success leaders in our city have had improving conditions for the marginalized, you have been there, reminding the world what is right and just.
Keep on and be encouraged. You will be proven right.