#BlackGirlPsalms: Psalm 55 — Who Is My Friend?

If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God,
as we walked about
    among the worshipers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
    let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
    for evil finds lodging among them.

16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
    who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
    into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
    will not live out half their days.

But as for me, I trust in you.


Who can I call “friend” when friends begin to feel like enemies?

If the neo-Nazis out in the streets were to insult me, I could endure it, for I already know that the unabashed white supremacists who have shown their faces in Charlottesville, in Durham, and in the Bay Area despise me and my people whom have darker skin.

If a man were threatening to strike me with his hands or with dehumanizing words because of his fear of me and my love of self, I could hide because I have endured this violence before and have come to expect it. I am used to men’s misdirected and uncontrolled anger, whether in my family or in public spaces, like the streets, at university or in my inbox.

But it is you, someone who is supposed to be like me — someone who professes to be on my side– who is starting to appear to me like an enemy.  You seem to prefer your own comfort than to make sure I can live free from fear of state sanctioned violence. How can I call you a friend? How am I supposed to take seriously the claims you make that you love me?

You who claim to be my friend. You who I had used to go to church with: Remember when I used to go to church with you? And we would eat lunch or dinner after service? And you told me that you believed in my leadership, that I am powerful? That I reflect the image of God?

In the fellowship hall, you would say that you were happy to see me, we would laugh together among our peers who also profess to love God, too.

But now in your silence you go about carefree with your white life, your white problems and your carefree dates at the local brewery. You tell me that there are better ways to fight white supremacists than what I have asked the ministers to offer to our parish. You tell me there are better ways, because you do not trust what those who are ACTUALLY affected by white supremacist violence are telling you to do. You continue to choose “studying” James Cone, Michelle Alexander, mujerista theology and womanist theology in your white small groups because you’d rather tell me “not yet” and that there is a purpose for your studying. You’d rather keep “studying” forever than to eventually change policies that hurt the people of color that you call Sibling in Christ. As if “studying” keeps you from taking concrete actions. You continue to start your own organizations with your blind-spots than to take the leadership of immigrants, Black Lives Matter organizers, and trans women who are fighting for their lives and know about their own needs better than you do. You believe that you know better. You refuse to acknowledge that your “knowing” better than the least of these is what got us to this dangerous political climate.

I see evil living in your home, in your homogeneous, fake-progressive places of worship– this evil of complacency. I see you enabling white supremacy and patriarchy, because you are too afraid to confront the injustice and patterns of dominance in your sphere of influence. You think that the problem of white supremacy is only the problem of of Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and Skinheads in Berkeley. You think the only misogynist to worry about is Trump. You excuse the misogynistic “jokes” from your pastor and friends. You cannot see the ways that you hurt me and my peers on the margins of society and neither do you care enough to see.

You shut yourself out from a healthy communion with me and those who suffer from state and policy violence, and it makes me wonder if you want to shut yourself out from the Kin-dom of God? Are you choosing to live in the realm of the dead? Or are you willing to sell yourself to the devil for the fleeting and empty promises that whiteness and patriarchy offers? Don’t you know that your silence and inaction in the face of injustice is killing your soul?

God! I cannot depend on those who say with their lips that they love me! So, I must call upon God for who else is there to turn to? Every single day, I feel afraid. I have too much anxiety to leave my home. Too much anxiety to face the world and to do my daily tasks. Sometimes too anxious and too depressed to eat, because the world around me despises and fears my existence. But I praise God, because God has brought me this far despite the violence of the white and patriarchal Church.

God saves me because the ways of  dominance and the promises of Empire never will.

There are too many who say that they love God, but they unknowingly hate the marginalized. They hate those who are crushed by the weight of Empire. They do trust the instruction and wisdom of the poor, the trans person, the black woman, and all those who are hated by society, because they do not fear God. They continue to elevate and center the powerful of this earth instead.

My fellow Christians attack me and those on the margins whom they claim to love and wish to protect. They silence us, because the truth of our lives and our pain sound too harsh to them. They use words that are smooth like butter, writing declarations of their condemnation of white supremacy for their organizational and church websites. But their words feel like swords — they inflict wounds on me when their smooth words are followed by no commitment to me and those others among me who are suffering.

God will show them how wicked all of this posturing, apathy and inaction is. God will show that there are consequences to their lack of humanity towards the marginalized of this world. Those who turn their backs on the undocumented immigrant, the trans person, the black woman — they have blood on their hands and cannot be called friends. They are thirsty for blood, though their smooth words would say otherwise. In this way, they prove that they are deceitful and cannot be trusted.

I trust that God will take care of this wickedness. And I trust that God will help me through another day, for God is my friend when the Church is not.

Justice Goes Beyond Removing the Trumps, Assads and Roofs of the World

“Assassinate Assad!”

“Kill Roof!”

“Impeach Trump!”

Over and over again, I see individuals respond to the world’s atrocities in this way. They see a figure that embodies hatred and corruption and advocate for ways to destroy or remove the individual displaying destructive ignorance. They demand that the individual alone who has committed widespread violence be abolished.

I think that this approach to justice is very naive. And I think that this is precisely the approach to justice that the powers that be want our imaginations to be limited to. They don’t want us to see the bigger picture. They do not want us to imagine a world beyond white supremacy, beyond disposability, beyond domination.

Dylan Roof is potentially facing state punishment. And, I’m not gonna do what many white folks do: which is to advocate against the death penalty a white killer faces while simultaneously failing to advocate for black folks who commit a small or no crime at all.

But I will say this: I absolutely believe that the federal punishment of Roof will not solve the issue at hand. And black people know this.

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The Charleston Nine from left to right: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethal Lee Lance and Susie Jackson

I believe that the state might kill Roof in order to fool those among us who have yet to figure out what justice they truly desire. Killing Roof is more about the United State’s public image than about justice for the families of the victims. The state recognition of Roof’s responsibility for his crime might provide closure for the families, but putting him to death does nothing to change or improve the lives of the victims, as Ijeoma Oluo reminds us. Rather, it leaves white supremacy unchallenged and it leaves the lives of the victims unchanged. Another Roof could pop up tomorrow or 2 years from now, because the state and the majority culture does not acknowledge the role that white supremacy and other narratives of domination play into what he has done. The state is not sorry. It cannot and does not value life. It is only meant to preserve the order that its most powerful and complacent subjects allow.

So, because we cannot rely on the state to deliver real justice to us, we have to know what kind of justice we believe in. And we have to know what justice looks like for our communities. We have to listen to the people who are telling the world what justice looks like:

“Stop poisoning our water. Help us to steward it.”

“Stop discriminating against our black children in schools and let them thrive and be children.”

“Allow us a place to live our lives peaceably, away from the cold of the Denver streets”.

Justice is not killing one white supremacist. Justice is abolishing white supremacy and white vulnerability. Justice is creating a beloved community where no one becomes a Dylan Roof so that families won’t live in fear.

Justice is not killing a war-mongerer. Justice is allowing for a world where people are fed and can advocate for their rights without the threat of violence and suppression. Justice is betraying the impulse to ignore and suppress the voice of your neighbor crying out for food and water. Justice is feeding them. Justice is accepting your responsibilities.

Justice is not impeaching a corrupt president. Justice is filling the land with thriving communities where people know each other, trust each other and are in right relationship with one another.

When we see history repeating itself, we have to realize that the problem is that collectively we have not learned the lessons that we needed to learn. We may have missed what we should have gleaned from our history lessons. We may not even know our own histories.

We need policy that reflects our values, but policy alone won’t save us. A friend of mine reminded me and group of people that here in the United States, we are facing the threat of hard fought policies being reversed because of a culture of corrupt values. If we collectively do not know what our values are and if we collectively fail to see that living out and spreading our values of life is part of our work of social change, we will keep watching the Roofs, Assads and Trumps rise before us. We will watch the Bannons and the Jerry Falwell Jrs take their thrones in a society that values destruction. All of this, because we have yet to fully recognized that our struggles are also deeply emotional and spiritual. The work of social change is also that of changing our collective and individual values.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

What do you value? And how are you manifesting your values, privately, publicly, politically?


If you are wondering how you can help Aleppo right now there are many ways, though sadly, it appears we are much at the stage of damage control. This is a conflict that started years ago, a repression of a people demanding revolution, among many other concerns.

You can call your elected officials and express your concerns. Or organize a vigil or protest to raise public awareness or agitate your campus, your elected officials, your institution. Challenge the polices that encourage distrust of people from other countries and cultures, the policies that make it difficult for victims to escape the violence.

Put pressure on you church or college campus to become a place of sanctuary for refugees. Encourage your church to use their power to put pressure on the government.

You can give to organizations like Premptive Love: https://preemptivelove.nationbuilder.com/aleppo

But also reflect on how your actions are aligned with your values and how you can manifest those values in other ways, not just in times of trouble, but during the mundane hours of your life. Be acquainted with the history of the issues that we face today, so that you can recognize the evils. There will be a time where you must recognize the evil when it wears a different face.