Regina Walton, congregation member and convener of Grace Cathedral’s Deanery delegates, shares her perspective on the current anger, grief and protest rising across our nation.
“I’m writing this with a caveat that it’s definitely incomplete and, most important, that it doesn’t represent the views of all black people. This is my perspective on a very complex issue that touches all of us. I say it when someone asks me about black people: we’re not a monolith. We’re part of the black diaspora, which is multi-layered and rich with different types of people, cultures, beliefs, and priorities.
“What we’re seeing now is simply unprecedented. The murder of George Floyd has been a catalyst to protests not only in Minneapolis but nation- and worldwide. Layer on top of that the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, along with pandemic that’s had a ho-hum response from the Federal and some local governments which hits the black community harder? This was a powder keg waiting to explode.
“All of this is inherently difficult and traumatic for us as people. I only speak from a black American point of view. We’ve suffered through slavery. Slaves, unlike indentured servants, weren’t allowed to keep their language or their culture or to buy their freedom. To this day, a lot of us have no idea where we come from except that our blood links us back to the African continent. For immigrants whose families were never enslaved, thankfully, they have a different experience. From 1619 until now the black experience in the United States of America has been one of struggle in a system that’s not made for us. We’re reminded of that on a daily basis. I’ve been reminded of that at Grace. I was baptized there during the 2009 Easter Vigil. I moved away to NYC shortly after that and moved back to the Bay Area in 2011. There have been a few times where someone has made small talk with me and approached me as the other. I’m assuming they think I’m passing through. If you know me, that’s why you’ll almost always see me with my name tag on. When I wear that, I don’t get that conversation.
“I’m originally from Los Angeles. I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. I was there during the ‘92 riots when the four Los Angeles Police Department officers accused of assault and use of excessive force were acquitted. I’d just graduated from UCLA. I was at a friend’s apartment in Beverly Hills when the riots started. She and I then went to her father’s home in Malibu. At the time, I lived in South Central Los Angeles in the guest house behind the home I grew up in. Because my parents told me to stay where I was, for the first two days of the L.A. riots, I saw it on T.V. Even then, it was traumatic to see.
“Fast forward to 2020, there are new protests, and the same trauma is back. I thought the week would peak with the video of Amy Cooper going from zero to sixty when a black man, Christian Cooper, asked her to put her dog on its leash. They were in an area of Central Park where dogs have to be on a leash. For me, it was traumatizing because I’ve worked with and for Amys before, and that brought all of that back up. Then news about the murder of George Floyd’s breaks. It was recorded and sent out of the Internet for all to see. That was traumatizing, and I’ll admit that I’ve still not watched most of it. I’ve also not watched the video showing Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. I also knew about Breonna Taylor’s murder. She was shot eight times when officers served a no-knock warrant in the middle of the night. Then layer on all of that dealing with a pandemic and the daily slights of living in a racist world. (It’s not just in the United States.)
“I and a lot of black people I know are angry, frustrated, exhausted, and just numb right now. In spite of that, a lot of us are out there protesting. That’s also worrying. With all of these gatherings, how much quicker will this virus spread? How many more black bodies will it claim?
“With that, I want to say please think twice before putting more emotional strain on the black people you know. Check-in on them, but please understand that they’re tired and might not have the emotional bandwidth to go very deep especially if you’re not already a close friend. Go to Google, and search for ways to help. Don’t ask a black person what should you do. Please don’t center yourself. Most important, if we do choose to speak, listen.
“I want to say thank you to Bishop Marc, all of Grace Cathedral’s clergy, and to the Grace Cathedral community. The vast majority of you have been wonderful, empathetic, and supportive. Keep doing that. Please stay safe. Peace be with you, and God bless you and yours.”
— Regina Walton, Grace Cathedral Congregation Member and Convener of the San Francisco Deanery