I am afraid of fire. Ever since I fell into a campfire, hands first as a child, I have a fearful memory for the searing pain it causes. Now, following George Floyd’s murder by a white police officer last week, my city is in flames – fires set long ago with the persistent heat and all too abundant fuel of racism – and I watch in horror as the flames rise on my television screen and the skies outside my home glow in the horrific and hazy light of justice deferred.
It is not lost on me that the adjective often used to describe any sizable fire is “raging.” These fires have been ignited by a rage born of the deep sorrow, humiliation, fear and trauma caused by racism, burned into our nation’s psyche long ago and still branding our society today.
We are in a time of emergency, not just here in the Twin Cities, but everywhere in the United States. And not one of us can truthfully check in as “safe” until ALL of us can — black, indigenous, all people of color. The flames rising in Minneapolis and St. Paul may be burning frighteningly hot and high, but the embers igniting the fires here exist everywhere in our nation. We all (and especially white folks like me) need to be looking closely and carefully, starting in our own hearts and neighborhoods and daily lives, asking “what am I doing to put these fires out and to heal the burning pain they cause?”