Category Archives: Trauma

Walter Scott’s Killer – an X-Cop – Sentenced 20 Years

I have to control my excitement about this, lest I appear heartless. It’s not that I am happy when people go to prison, but the significance of this sentencing is PROFOUND!

For years we have fought for accountability when police shoot unarmed black boys, men and women down in the streets and last week, we finally saw justice happen. Michael Slager, the former South Carolina police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott, age 50, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison.

“This is an historic day for civil rights, in particular for officer-involved shootings,” said Chris Stewart, one of the Scott family’s attorneys, at a press conference following the sentencing.

Scott’s mother and cousin lay flowers down at the site where he was killed.

Slager shot Scott in the back five times as Scott was running from him after pulling him over for a broken tail light. A toxicology report showed that Slager had cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting. Thankfully, there was a video that clearly showed Slager shooting Scott in the back and that was the main piece of evidence that weighed heavily in the sentencing.

By all reports Slager is deeply remorseful for his actions. He reportedly named each family member by name in court and apologized to each one of them. Slager’s wife begged the court for mercy. And while I am heartbroken once again for all involved, I am so happy that we finally see a white police officer behind bars for murdering an unarmed black man. White people have been killing black people without consequence for centuries and it has to stop. I sincerely hope that this sentencing will deter other officers from pulling the trigger in the future.

Invitation to Prophetic Imagination: Community Safety for All

Today Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Faith is launching a campaign inviting people of faith to analyze their relationship to policing. As we have seen made more visible through the work of Black Lives Matter, policing structures have a radically different relationship to people of color than to white people and white communities. We have seen that black and brown bodies people face much greater risk of being targeted by police violence and injustice in arrests, detainment, in court proceedings, and in sentencing.

Communities of faith can be complicit in upholding white supremacy in policing but they can also be leaders in creating alternatives to policing, in order to help keep our communities safer.

In this campaign, we are asking questions like:

How do faith/spiritual communities legitimize and reinforce the “need” for policing?

How are faith/spiritual  institutions tied to institutions of policing?

How can faith communities act to disrupt the prison, detention, and deportation pipelines?

What might alternatives to policing look like?

What might community safety look like without relying on policing, and how might faith/spiritual communities participate in that work?

While SURJ Faith is oriented to multi-faith work, the early phase of this campaign will be focused on helping Christian communities identity the connections between Christian supremacy and white supremacy. As we move into the Lenten season this winter, we will use this season to analyze and reflect on our personal and collective relationship to white supremacy. How is white supremacy internalized in our being? How is white supremacy expressed in our liturgies, our rituals, and interpretation of scripture. What would it look like to “give up white supremacy for Lent,” as individuals? As congregations and communities?

I am particularly drawn to this campaign as a contemplative Christian and anti-racist because I know I need to continue to do the work of pulling the poison of white supremacy out of my being. I have also seen how my religion has been used to justify white supremacy historically, and this history troubles me deeply. I believe white supremacy is alive and well in our denominations and that they manifest in ways that further marginalize people of color and put them at great risk. I hope you will join me in urging your faith community to join this campaign. Contact me to learn how you can engage in this work and I will loop you in!

ICE Cold: Posting a bond at ICE

I have been volunteering and getting trained in sanctuary organizing this past year.  One day a couple weeks ago a message came through the network talking about posting bond for a Hendersonville man who had been detained since an ICE traffic stop last summer. His family had finally raised the $8500 in cash. I offered to help since I was already in Charlotte. The money was deposited into my account. I went to the bank and got a certified check and drive to the DHS offices in Charlotte. I was seen immediately and was able to get my request in to the ICE detention center in Lumpkin. Then I waited for nearly three hours for the request to come back as approved and then to actually post the bond. I was treated respectfully and walked through the process professionally.

During my wait, I observed a woman who was visibly distraught come into the office and go to the window where she was tearfully looking for her husband. She was told that he was here illegally and that he was being detained and deported. She was in visible emotional distress my heart went out to her. Two female DHS officers were called and they escorted her into the waiting room. They asserted that her husband is here illegally and that his case lies with the judge, that being at DHS was a waste of her time. They were unkind and insensitive to the woman was in the midst of a traumatic and life changing event. They kicked the woman out of the building and then came back to the hallway adjacent to the waiting room. We could hear everything they said. I am sad to report that they made fun of the woman. Not only was there no empathy, they expressed great distain for the woman and her experience.

If we are not training DHS officers in handling emotional trauma with therapeutic skills like unconditional positive regard, we are de-humanizing the officers as well as the people they are supposed to serve. I have a friend and co-trainer who is a therapist by training and an activist. When we work together doing racial equity training, she often shares the concept of “unconditional positive regard,” with our students. She shares that she is holding unconditional positive regard for everyone in the room and invites the students to do the same. I have always found that when she does this, the room relaxes a bit and trust is built, which is vital to the work of racial equity training.

The Wikipedia page on Unconditional Positive Regard states that:

“Unconditional positive regard, (UPR) is a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers in 1959, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client centered therapy. The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or her self vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behavior—and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”

Why aren’t our police forces trained in trauma and healing? At the very least, could they try to see the good in people?

#MeToo: NOT just a Media Moment but our Past, Present, & (Hopefully not) Future

#MeToo. It’s daily life for the majority of women, boys, queer and trans people.

I was one of the thousands, if not millions of women, who posted #MeToo on my Facebook account last month. I was traveling back from my honeymoon and so was on my social media more than usual. (I tend to ignore crowds of people in airports and on planes by burrowing deep into my technology.) As someone who was molested by a girl as a child, raped by a man on my 21st birthday, and harmed by patriarchy and the neuroses of men numerous ways in life, I never thought I would ever mate for life. But here I was emerging from my honeymoon, deeply in love with my husband, and entering into the cacophony of my sisters cries.

What wasn’t posted on Facebook pages and tweets, are all the hours and days of processing via, chat, phone, zoom, you name it. We were listening to each other, hearing each others stories, crying together, empathizing, working through our triggers and supporting each other.

Until you have sat with a woman and heard her tell her story, you cannot believe that that things done to woman are true, because they are unspeakable. You need to have the experiencing of sitting with a woman and her telling you the story of being owned as a slave, being held in a room visited only by men who raped her. How she escaped, how a random man on the street helped her and bought her a bus ticket out of town. How a family took her in and got her back in school. Until you have heard this story from someone you know, someone you maybe see at work or at school. Survivors of intense violent sexual assault are all around us. Survivors of less offenses are right next to you, they are the women all around you. We have the generations of abused women in our bones, the pain of the histories of owning and subjugating women in our blood.

#MeToo is happening now, but the past is with us. Patriarchy has evolved and continues to evolve. We can never let another teenage girl or boy in Hollywood get raped on the casting couch. This is also about the future. Women and men hurt by patriarchy need to be able to name and heal from sexual violence and to do that, the abuse has to stop. This isn’t just a man problem, it’s going to take all of us to transform patriarchy.

There are paradoxes of this moment that aren’t lost on me. #MeToo is a moment but it’s also lifetimes of female and queer suffering. I am deeply in love with a good man who does the work with me of pulling the poison of patriarchy out, from ourselves, each other, and our lives.  And it’s this love that helps me recommit to pulling out the poison over and over again. Let’s keep working to transform our wounds into healed places and transform patriarchy into love.

How to be a Christian When Men Aren’t Safe

Jesus who Forgave the Oppressor. Jesus who sets free the Oppressed. Jesus who sets things right. Jesus who Forgave the Oppressor. Jesus who sets free the Oppressed. Jesus who sets things right. Painting by Bec Cranford-Smith

I’ve been doing yoga therapy lately. In simplistic terms it’s a kind of counseling that takes the body along for the ride.  In these sessions I have been uncovering beliefs that I have held about men. It’s pretty much all borne from an oppressive and abusive father. But in the journey it’s also uncovered mean boys from my youth, the man who raped me and the boyfriends who broke my heart. It all leads to the same kind of message; men aren’t safe.

So I’ve been wondering, how exactly do I give myself over to a kenotic path led and modeled by a man?  I don’t subscribe to a view of God as strictly gendered as male. This has never been something I have been comfortable doing. I have always been drawn to a father/mother view of God. So how does one, like me, who has constant programming running about how men aren’t safe, follow the lead of a spiritual embodiment of God who inhabited a male body.

Is my love of Jesus just a fairytale of what a man could be (and never has been in my actual life) and how could I follow the teachings of a man when men aren’t safe?  Is my love of Jesus a dream of a man without an ego, a longing for a human man that embodies a gentleness and a deep caring for the marginalized and oppressed? Is this just the dream of a little girl longing for the love of a father that could never be? Part of myself would say yes. But the mystic in me holds space for the possibility of something I’ve not yet experienced, the love of a man that is unconditional.

I want to believe that Jesus was a man with an ego who found a contemplative path that led him to surrendering egoic thought in favor of divine connection. And that divine connection was what made Jesus, the man, the savior the world believes him to be. I want to walk that path and I want to be like him. But this challenges my belief that men aren’t safe. If I choose a path emulating a spiritual teacher who was a man, how can I continue to believe men to be unsafe?

Maybe the distinction I need to make is that egoic thought is unsafe and perhaps I need to leave gender out of it? What do you think? I’d love your thoughts.