Month: August 2014
In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was gunned down after walking home unarmed from a convenience store. In July 2012, a masked man went into a movie theatre with guns and grenades and killed 12 people. In December 2012, a young man walked into an elementary school with an assault rifle and killed 20 children and 6 adults. I am the mother of a four year old son. At the end of 2012 I wrote a facebook status expressing my feelings on how I felt absolutely helpless when it comes to protecting my son from harms way. I wrote how at any moment he could be attacked and there is nothing I can do about it. If he were to walk to the store, go to the movies or merely be sitting in his classroom someone could take him away from me. Only minutes passed before someone commented a long comment that boiled down to “all we can do is pray.”
This expression bothers the hell out of me for a number of reasons. I pray for my son. I absolutely do. But does that mean that is the reason why he is still alive and well? If so, that implies that none of the Sandy Hook victims, Aurora victims or Trayvon had no one praying for them. I am going to assume that is not true. Then, where are the praying folks left? I mean, doesn’t God answer prayers? The prayer usually goes something like, “God, please watch over my family. Keep them safe from harm.” Is this why people then get mad at the God that they have been taught answers prayers?
The title of this piece specifies the black community, which I am part of, and rightfully so. Let me explain. A few weeks ago, I attended a women’s program at a church in Houston. The subject was set around women being mentally, spiritually and physically healthy. When it got to the mental part the speaker was doctor. He spoke about counseling and seeking help. He asked the questions, “What do you do when you are depressed? When you feel you have done all you can and you just can’t seem to feel better?” It seemed every woman in the church said some version of “all you can do is pray.” As someone who has prayed and prayed and prayed about my situations and didn’t really gain understanding until I went to a counselor, all I could do was shake my head. I have been in a church service where this was said: “y’all are seeking help from this person and that person when all you really need to do is get down on your knees and pray and seek help from God.” This is so problematic. It places a stigma on getting the help one needs. This is why mental illness runs rampant in the black communities because we are less likely to seek help because we are taught from an early age that all we need is prayer. I’ve known extremely religious people that stopped taking medicine and stop going to the doctor because they were just going to pray. Sad to say, one of these people died shortly thereafter.
Yesterday, August 9th, an 18 year old boy was shot 10 times by the police. Mike Brown was unarmed. A few days ago John Crawford picked up a toy gun in a Wal-Mart. After a concerned couple called 911, he was killed while on the phone with his mother not 10 seconds after being confronted by the police. Weeks earlier, Eric Garner was died from an illegal chokehold administered by the police. Prayer did not keep them safe. Prayer is not going to keep the rest of our children, friends and siblings safe.
The violence we face at the hands of other black people, the rate at which students are being pushed through the school-to-prison pipeline, the high unemployment rate requires more than prayer. A lot of these issues require action. You can’t expect prayer to get you a job if you don’t want to fill out job applications. You can’t expect prayer to curb violence in our communities if you don’t parent and mentor our youth. We can’t expect prayer to keep our men and women safe if we are not willing to stand up and fight not only for justice but for prevention.
Where would be if Harriet Tubman just prayed for freedom? Or if Dr. King and Malcolm just prayer for equality. Understand that I am not saying do not pray. That is your prerogative. In order for things to change, a plan needs to be put in place and action needs to happen. Prayer should not be your entire plan.