May 3, 2018 Common Good

Grief Says More Than “Things will be Alright”

…The real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right. Only in the empire are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend that things are all right—either in the dean’s office or in our marriage or in the hospital room. And as long as the empire can keep the pretense alive that things are all right, there will be no real grieving and no serious criticism.[1]

In the historic Women’s March in Washington DC, January 2017, Janelle Monáe led a chant with the mothers of men and women who had fallen at the hands of violence. As the band played, the mothers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and others shouted their son’s name, and the crowds replied, “Say his name!” As they shouted the names of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, the crowds continued, “Say her name,” “Say his name!” This practice made public by the #blacklivesmatter movement is a public act of grieving. There are tears. The pain and rage from a lack of control is publicly uttered, shouted from the rooftops, rather than left powerless as mumbles and whispers. To pretend that “things are all right” is disempowering for those who most feel unauthorized by empire. On the other hand, the courage to grieve in publicly vulnerable ways opens possibilities. To “say his name” is an energizing prophetic act.

Take time today to notice what isn’t right in your community, in your family, or in the national and international sphere. To “embrace the inscrutable darkness” is a leap of imagination. Dare to speak it, past the mumblings or hidden critiques. Have the courage to be vulnerable about your own implicit collusion. Invite others to join you as you move past the numbness of silence.


[1]Brueggemann, Walter. Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 11). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Share with a friend