“When they go low, we go high.”
The Sainted & Saintly Saint Michelle of the House of Obama
I can almost still feel the righteousness of that moment. The cheers, the admiration, that feeling that the darkness before the dawn was actually a great sign – proof that the dawn was coming. Because, as we learn from fairytale endings and carefully curated MLK quotes, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” And light always wins. Right?
What? You’re really going to have to speak up, because I can’t read lips in all this darkness.
And I can’t stop thinking about Stephon Clark. Minding his backyard business, in the dark. And I wonder if he even knew what happened to him or did he find himself standing before God trying to figure it out, “I was in the backyard and then there was some noise and light…”
Light. We all keep waiting for it to win, because that is the right and natural progression of things, right? But we keep forgetting how unnatural our lives are. When was the last time you went to bed because the sun went down? Or woke up because it was rising? I have blackout curtains in my room to keep the sun from bothering me; but guess what? I don’t live in darkness. I live in the artificial light of my choice. We all do. But we keep quoting Dr. King as if we haven’t harnessed light and made the natural irrelevant in our preference for the artificial.
So how is any of this supposed to work now? It may be better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but how much good can a candle do in a culture lit by white supremacy and fragility? When we’re standing here with candles and they’re rushing at us with tactical flashlights? Or worse – we’re standing here with nothing but the natural light of our humanity and they’re flooded with the illumination of certain News networks and the entire racist history of America that lights us as less than?
Do we have a problem with darkness? Absolutely. This is a dark time in a dark nation with a dark history. Darkness is seeded into our roots and at the root of all of our problems. But we can’t even get close to dealing with it, because we can’t stop turning on lights. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”(2 Corinthians 11:14)
You know what I would love? I would love the option to curse the darkness. For us to stand in nothing but the truth of our humanity and our brokenness and light candles together. We’d all be much safer if we were just in darkness. Stephon Clark was. Until he was flooded in too much artificial light and extinguished. In darkness, lit by centuries of distorted light we’ve been trying to rise above.
On paper, going high when they go low sounds noble, but honestly, I don’t want to go high anymore. Not if taking the high road means just hoping, praying and waiting for truth and light to somehow burn through everything we’ve spent generations building to harness, temper, dampen and supersede them. So what does it actually mean to go high in a battle of lights?
Darkness can’t drive out darkness, we know that; but is there anything that can drive out false light? Because the artificial can’t kill the natural – the sun will keep rising and people of color will always be resplendent – but it can override them. One of the prophets once asked “What’s a mob to a king, what’s a king to a god, what’s a god to a non-believer?” And I’d like to add: What is darkness to a candle? What’s a candle to the sun? And what’s the sun to a fool on the other side of a blackout curtain?