Tuesday afternoon, FFI signed off on our quarterly newsletter, and tee-d it up for an e-blast on Wednesday. And as it landed in people’s inboxes, video of Alton Sterling’s killing was going viral. And then, moments later it seemed, the surreal narration of Philando Castile’s killing amplified the horror. I am sickened, and I haven’t slept or concentrated well this week.
Only weeks ago, I wasn’t sleeping because there were more killings, these in Orlando. And while I wasn’t sleeping, I wrote the lead letter for our newsletter, the one that went out earlier this week. That letter was tied to a particular moment, and yet because I haven’t written letters for our newsletter about massacres in Charleston or the steady roll of thunder that is the violence gripping Chicago or the heroin epidemic in Baltimore or Appalachia, or the disparate length of time required to vote depending on what jurisdiction you’re in, or kidnapped girls in Nigeria, or any in the rain of inequity and violence, my representation of FFI’s attention and caring did not accurately reflect who we are or what we believe. That letter could be read as silent on acts of disappearing people beyond Orlando, including the extraordinary, corrosive, seemingly unending violence against blacks by some in law enforcement. And now I, like many of us, am sickened by the killing of law enforcement officers in Dallas and the reality that, for generations, violence has begot violence has begot violence and I’m afraid to see what the news will bring today or tonight.
Hopelessness and fatalism are deeply seductive, and it is tempting to go silent, and to fall into the privilege of not having to watch or see or speak. Yet the rain of horrors nationally, internationally is torrential. We at FFI have been talking deeply about these issues, and will continue to wrestle with our organizational response to them individually and collectively. And we will, so that timing issues which lead us to stand in solidarity in newsletters and elsewhere aren’t perceived externally (or internally) as an implicit organizational pecking order of atrocities. This isn’t to diminish Orlando, but it is to acknowledge that as we find our public voice, the perils of seeming silent—being silent—are real.