My Brother's Keeper
I was probably about seven years old at the time. I lived on a street with a lot of kids. It was summertime in the Sixties, and outside of mealtimes, my brother and I were outside playing. As is the case in any group of children, there would be arguments and the occasional acts of a bully.
I remember clearly one such time. We were at the house a couple of doors down from ours. We had been playing together, and tempers got heated. I was standing on the top step of a porch looking down at a boy pinning my brother against the fence, threatening bodily harm. Along with the other kids surrounding the scene, I knew this wouldn’t end well, but no one was willing to step in—to stop the bully.
The difference for me was that this was my big brother. I couldn’t just stand there and do nothing. My plan wasn’t brilliant, but it was typical of a seven-year-old. I ran down the stairs, screaming bloody murder and yelling for my parents. Though this broke up the gathering, it didn’t spare my brother physical harm as the bully knew he could get a few licks in before any adults showed up.
The reason this scene plays so clearly in my memory is because I wish I would have done more. Granted, calling attention to the potential beating may have limited the damage, but my brother was not left unscathed, and as far as I can remember, the bully never paid a price.
Fast forward to 2020. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Christian Cooper. Breonna Taylor. Again, I am a spectator desperate to stop the injustice but am not sure how to do that. Do I yell and scream at the bullying? Yes. Anyone who knows me will have heard my rantings on what has become the common place lynching of people of color in this country. Yet again, however, I am haunted by the belief that I should and could do more. In maddening frustration, I’m honestly not sure what that is.
As a person of faith, my mandate from my Maker is clear: Love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), do what is right, love mercy, walk in humility with God (Micah 6:8), correct oppression (Isaiah 1:17), show kindness and mercy to one another (Zechariah 7:9), open your mouth for the mute (Proverbs 31:8), and so much more. I desperately want to be that person.
I called my brother and asked about his recollection of the incident. He has none but doesn’t doubt it happened. Thankfully, his physical scars didn’t last as long as my emotional ones. This is not the current reality as the resulting scars of the bullying of people of color are fatal.
If I had to do it all over again, I want to believe I would fling my scrawny little seven-year-old body off the porch, careless of my own risk and harm, and do something substantial to prevent further abuse. I am sincerely hoping and praying for some guidance for what it would look like for me to “leap off the porch” today.
*After a preview of this blog, a good friend recommended this article as a great place to start.