I recently realized that I feel safer in cars that look like I can afford them. How I realized this was that I had to rent a car. I had a coupon that enabled me to get a compact for the same price as an economy and I jumped on it. But, when I got dropped off at the rental car place, it turned out that they didn’t have a compact or even an economy. What they could offer me was a minivan or an SUV for the same price. I decided to take the SUV. It turned out that the only SUV they had available was their most expensive vehicle on the lot with all the bells and whistles. The agent told me that the cost was $70k.
Now you would think that my first thought would be excitement and a hallelujah for receiving this super nice vehicle for the price of dinner for two at Chipotle. But instead, my first thought was, “I hope the police don’t see me driving this.” When I witnessed the thought arise in my consciousness, I have to admit that I was disheartened that my first thought couldn’t be happiness for myself.
It feels discouraging when, despite years of working on shifting my mind away from the social constructs projected upon people who look like me and into an awareness that only God and I have any authority on who I am, I still must frequently work on my mind to push out images of myself in jail away from my family, disgraced for some crime I probably didn’t commit. Or worse.
“DELETE, DELETE, DELETE,” I say to myself not wanting to give any energy to this false future. But memories and secondary traumas from exposure that I have not been able to fully heal from still wrestle for space in my mind.
The promise of my faith that tells me, “perfect love casts out all fear,” is tempered by “Black boys out at night are nothing but trouble.” That’s what the police officers told us as a justification for why we were taunted by several white people one summer night. In other words, no one would have bothered you if you were in the house where you were supposed to be.
How is it that I can know with all faith that I am free indeed in Christ and still navigate this world like a runaway slave? DELETE. DELETE. DELETE.
Thankfully, I have developed many thought exercises to draw me away from those thoughts when they arise. They include praying, using my imagination in constructive ways, and when necessary, being honest with myself and others when thoughts like this arise. Writing helps tremendously. And that’s why you are reading these words right now.
I also take the time to look for ways that I can use this awareness to help envision a more equitable society where future generations will not have to wrestle with these thoughts.
I ask myself, “What will it take for me to experience myself as free as God sees me? And then I make moves toward that.
I know some people may wonder why I even had to go through this process. All I can say is that at some point, when some of us have heard enough negative things about ourselves or people like us – “whether directly or indirectly – “our survival mechanisms kick in and we try to anticipate negative reactions in order to preemptively figure out how to get around them.
My way is to surrender to the belief that God is the author of my being, not this system that feeds off of us being as divided within ourselves and against one another as possible. And so, I keep cleaning house and being grateful for the day-to-day discoveries that allow me to eliminate the false ideas that take me away from me so that I can wholly return to God.
Rev. Pedro S. Silva II, First Congregational Church, Boulder; Boulder County Interfaith Leaders Caucus