Comfort may be criminal, too

Restoring order to my city after an evening of disruption appears to be the call of the day. It is the call from civic leaders, clergy, and community leaders.

I do not advocate violence. I do not support destruction.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin

But I do wholeheartedly support disruption of our collective comfort. We must take time away from Olympics, baptisms, and ballgames. We must stop wandering into traffic seeking Pokémon. Pastimes can wait. We must follow the lead of those who disrupted comfort as usual last night in Milwaukee, not through violent destruction, but by exposing our hearts. Another young Black man died in a police shooting in our city yesterday. The hundreds who gathered on the streets gave vent to their anguish.

There will be gatherings today during which the focus will be on ways to quell the destructive outrage following the death of one more young Black man.

Again, I do not advocate violence. I do not support destruction. I do wonder, however, where is our outrage? How will we expose our hearts? When does our comfort become criminal?


3 thoughts on “Comfort may be criminal, too

  1. (It’s Tom – I’m playing around with new blog names)

    Gary, after sitting with your post for two hours (actually, I was sleeping on it after I woke up briefly at 2:30 pm)… I had an “aha!” moment that woke me up. Here’s what I came up with: Don’t miss the real message of what is already called the Milwaukee Race Riots of 2016. I’m sure churches all over Milwaukee this morning prayed yet again for peace (and the Israelite War God just doesn’t seem to answer). Yes, restore order. But “THE order,” “THE establishment,” “THE status quo” must not be restored. The real message here isn’t violence and destruction. The real message and the real news story is – what is going on in the hearts of young black men? What hopelessness? What despair? These young people have nothing, absolutely nothing to lose. No hope. No future. Why? Because they have unequal access to a good education, a good job, college, university. It’s as if Marquette is the boundary of the ghetto for a reason, as if to say, “Thus far and no farther.” That’s the real message, and the question I’m left with is, “Who, besides the wealthy, benefits from the grinding poverty of the poor? No one. So why can’t we, as a society, pool our resources so that everyone has not just rights, but dignity. Who benefits when some of society is left in the smoldering ashes of hopelessness?

    On the phone every night, multiple times, I hear among other problems that “he’s disrespecting me,” or “she’s being disrespectful.” Why is respect so important to these callers that it literally forms part of their need for help? It’s because that is precisely what has been taken away. When your neighborhood has gone to shit and you’ve been left behind in every imaginable way by society, you’re left with a deep feeling of being treated with no dignity, no worth, no value, no respect. We do not shoot what we respect.


    • Thanks for keeping the dialog going, Tom. I have heard from a friend whose family owns one of the businesses burned over the weekend. He points out that his family’s business is one of the first Black owned businesses in the area, and he struggles with understanding — not too little, but too much. He sees and feels more than many in this disruption.

      Your thoughts on THE order have cracked open some new ideas for me, too. Thanks for that.

      The disrespect about which you write here is critical to our understanding and action in our racist society. Being “left behind” implies that there is a destination, a direction, a goal against which we are measured. The greater the approximation to that goal, the more likely we will be afforded respect and hospitality. Each week in Chicago, I look for Robert, a homeless man who I usually see on my way to or from the train at Union Station. We hug and talk and call each other by name. He does not verbally share with me his “deep feeling of being treated with no dignity, no worth, no value, no respect.” He does not have to do so. It is in his eyes. Just as it is in the eyes of the three children that I sometimes see nearby. They are sprawled across the sidewalk quietly and painfully as their mother shakes a cup seeking to bring in enough coins so they might eat. The depth of their isolation is unspeakable as hundreds and hundreds of commuters pass them by on their way to leave them behind.


  2. I forgot to thank you for the courage and clarity of your words. I’ve missed these exchanges. I forgot how much I benefit from them.


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