For many of us, sitting down at the table for Thanksgiving dinner could only be described as unsettling with only one question hovering in our minds: What do we have to be thankful for? As we stare into the face of what has been coined by many a broken electoral system and begin to process what is to come, gratefulness is fleeting. It is with this question in mind that I visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights the day after Thanksgiving. As I followed the map I ran my fingers across the walls. The walls are adorned with quotes of hope from organizers, strategists, and protestors. All of whom made it through some of the most horrific attacks on human dignity.
I came across a photograph of students holding hands. These students were staring directly into the eyes of law enforcement. Law enforcement, sent to keep them from their destination. Immediately, my mind wandered from Ferguson to Tulsa to Charlotte, and finally rested on the images produced at Standing Rock in North Dakota. I was hit with the sudden realization; we, as a community and a nation, are not far removed from peaceful protests being met by aggressive responses at the hands of those meant to protect our nation. We are not far removed from basic rights being denied based on skin color and economic biases. We are not far removed from the value of life being determined by a few instead of by the God-given right to rule and practice dominion for simply being human.
A man standing in solidarity with the Sioux Tribe in protest of the North Dakota pipeline raised his fist as military personnel advanced toward the group of protestors with the intent of spraying them with water cannons and rubber bullets. This same group had previously been attacked by police dogs after soldiers formed an illegal blockade keeping them from land that is rightfully their own. This man, with his fist raised, maintained the posture of demonstrators, activists, and organizers before and with him. Groups of people who decided that it is not ethical to stand by as injustice and intentional attacks on marginalized groups go untelevised. Therefore, resulting in the easy dehumanization and misrepresentation of the intent and demands of the groups attempting to protect their land, their heritage, and their dignity. Days later, protestors joined together in silent prayer at this same scene. Those in power may have forgotten that there is power in prayer, in community, and in organized disobedience; but we, the people, have not.
We live in a nation where the need to funnel oil outweighs the need to protect the drinking water and sacred land of an entire community. It is not surprising to see the men and women meant to protect us using excessive force to guard what is rightfully ours; our homes, our heritage, our dignity. Inhumane treatment of minorities is not a thing of the past. It is overtly present. It is the reality of the marginalized. It is the thorn in the side of our nation. Unfortunately, a spirit of apathy overshadows basic conviction and forsakes the least of these instead of acknowledging the trauma endured and embedded daily. When our government reacts with war tanks, riot gear, and unwarranted arrests they are in direct opposition with the will of God and the sanctity of human existence.
So, the question remains: what do we have to be thankful for? I am thankful that the elders who have seen and survived terrorist acts of genocide on the land of the free continue to pray bravely and boldly. Revolution may not come overnight but it will come. I am thankful that the downpour of hateful acts that have taken place after the final announcement of the presidential election results have not incited fear. Instead, it has awakened a new generation of unapologetic freedom fighters. I am thankful that those who hate, who seek to incite terror, and who are ignorant to their own privilege are outnumbered. The number of people who will use their various platforms to let it be known that we, the people, are not going anywhere is vast and relentless. We will share our outrage. We will support our sisters and our brothers. We will be rebellious until the day comes that our worth is not defined by those who had no hand in creating us. For this, I am thankful.