Reverend Billy’s Revelations

The good reverend reflects on how to oppose racist police violence without going numb because it is so hard to eradicate.

Rev. Billy Talen Feb 7, 2023

Dear Reverend Billy, 

I am protected by my white-skin privilege. Still, I feel enraged by the endless videos of police killing unarmed Black people. When does this end?

— Ashley

P.S. I marched many times for Black Lives Matter, but nothing seems to be working.

Ashley ­— the way you’re talking … You package racism like it’s a product with a shelf-life in reverse. In three years it’s supposed to turn into love and justice, after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow?  We have too much privilege if we think we can be impatient with racism when it doesn’t end on our schedule.  

The families of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are gathering with the mother of Tyre Nichols in Memphis for her son’s funeral. And there are thousands of loved ones across this culture who will be weeping again as their own loved ones come back in vivid memories and hushed conversations. And I think of Tortuguita, the climate activist recently killed by the police down in the Weelaunee Forest on the poor side of Atlanta. And the waves of young suicides on the reservations. Ashley, if a second and a third summer of 2020 needs to take place, everyone needs to come back again and shout the names of the murder victims of police violence … You’ll be there, won’t you? We have to be ready if the call goes out.

Ashley ­— the way you’re talking … You package racism like it’s a product with a shelf-life in reverse.

You ask — when does this end? Systemic racism is deep, and it’s also in motion. It wants to survive like any profit center. Oppression is coming from many sources at once, it is like artificial intelligence blended into the surface of things. Many of the originating points of violence are hidden behind smiles of models in advertisements, hidden behind the thin blue line. We live in Militarized Consumerism. 

I remember Angela Davis speaking in Washington, D.C., at the Women’s March on the day after Trump’s inauguration. She spoke from her life of resistance and she lifted her voice to speak of the love and beauty that persists even as the oppression threatens with its violence. We have not been able to schedule the end of hate. It has no expiration date. We can love in this moment, though, love and then keep loving as we get back to the justice work.

— Rev Billy

Reverend Billy Talen is the pastor of the Church of Stop Shopping. Have a question for the Reverend? Email and unburden your soul.

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