June First

It’s June 1st, 2020. A day, for many across America, that was supposed to represent a re-emergence into a post-pandemic world. A day when the country was meant to collectively attempt to stand to its feet after being bowled over by 100,000+ untimely deaths, and the financial devastation of tens of millions of its citizens that came with the measures put in place to help slow the spread of the virus that was responsible for those deaths.

Instead, the first Monday in June is being spent in a concussive haze in the wake of a weekend in which a volcano of rage finally managed to blast through a mountain cap of denial. A metaphor of fire and ash seems appropriate to describe a weekend of literal fire, and literal ash.

The Monday meant to begin a rebuild upon the foundations that have been laid bare by a virus, has instead been a Monday of reckoning for those of us that have refused to listen to the countless voices that have been crying out that it is those very foundations that are uneven, potentially beyond repair.

How did some of us stand for so long on uneven ground? How did we not feel ourselves sinking? Perhaps because some of us weren’t sinking at all. Perhaps the ground we walk upon has different rules for different feet.

One thing is for certain. There is no give on any ground for the flesh, blood and bone of a black man’s neck being crushed by the weight of a barbarous policeman’s knee, a knee whose weight is exponetially increased by the racial animous of the heart of the man it belongs to, and the complicit cowardice in the knees of the uniformed onlooking peers.

I didn’t watch the video of George Floyd’s murder. I do not need to see to believe, as I once did.

There comes a time when you know the validity of the pain by the tone of the cry. I can hear that cry now. A cry that was being muffled by comforts and conditioning now rings in my ears with clarity and offensive, discomforting intent, and is planting seeds of impatience and a growing anger for those who refuse to hear its call.

So to my white friends, and my melanin-adjacent acquantainces, I make this request:

Listen, and be convicted.

I’m not talking about the conviction of guilt, though some of you need to reconcile the harm that may have come from ignorance of the willful variety.

I’m talking about the conviction of empathy- the type of conviction that demands a response of love. Sacrificial love. The type of love, for my Christian brothers and sisters, that led Jesus to carry your burdens, just and unjust, in an effort to give you redemptive freedom in His sacrifice.

It’s time to become convicts. To bear the cross of our ancestors and our current authoritative structures, and make a sacrifice to lift our fellow citizens’ necks from under the pressure of this country’s knee.

Listen to the cries. Let them move you in a way they failed to move the officers who surrounded George Floyd’s murderer as his breath left his body.


Southwest of Omelas is a daily blog from Ralph Amsden, and an homage to “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.

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