In this Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior pastor at Middle Collegiate Church, speaks during an interfaith gathering outside of the Judson Memorial Church.
( Emily Leshner, File
Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry and this is The Takeaway. When news first broke of the racial massacre in Buffalo, New York that took the lives of 10 people, all I felt like I could do was to sit and put my head in my hands. Like many of you, in moments of painful, disorienting, senseless loss, I turned to my friends and I rely on their wisdom to guide me through. The Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. She's author of Fierce Love. Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui, my friend, thank you so much for being here.
Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui: Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, my friend, I'm so glad to be with you on this horrific one time again, massacre.
Melissa Harris-Perry: It took us a day, all right. Today is Tuesday. This happened over the weekend and I just had to say to my team, I can't, I'm not ready. It's still in my heart, it's still in my throat, it's still in my body and I can't get it into my head. I can't have this conversation until I can shove it into my head. How do you talk to people about taking this kind of trauma and putting it somewhere where we can do something about it?
Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui: I'm a preacher and Sunday, I had to preach this, the lectionary texts, the scheduled texts we used to preach was right in the space. It was John of Patmos's crazy vision with beasts and all kinds of things but ends in this place of one day, God's grace, God's glory, God's light, God's love will be so profoundly in the world, we won't even need churches and temples and synagogues and mosques and gurdwaras because God's going to be in all of us, residing in all of us. I preached that, but I also said, if you think God is waiting around like go snap some magic stuff, and it's going to happen, hell no. It's you and me right now, we better get in this game.
If you don't think we have work to do, you are sadly mistaken. I'm screaming at them, "Let's go."
Trying to connect the dots between this fascist uprising against women's bodies, trans bodies, and the ongoing permanent, pernicious, racism and anti-Black especially. We got to do something together and they were so fired up, they were crying. They were shaking their fists, they were telling him, "Tell us what to do?" Not to talk too long about that but we are doing things already, love. We throw a conference every year to help people do anti-racist work.
We have a reparations task force now looking at Indigenous and Black reparations, and we cry and we cry, and we're mad as hell. Those are all the real feelings we should have when some white boy gets in a car and drives to hunt some Black people. We should be pissed off and we are.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I was in New Orleans recently with Jazz Fest and it's always one of my favorite times just standing outside, a crowd of people, listening to good music.
Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui: I'm so jealous you do that every year. [laughs]
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yes, right. It's a beautiful thing and I found myself about halfway through the first set, and I'm very relaxed, I went, "Whoa, wait a minute, I can't be this relaxed." I was looking around and saying, "Okay, I got to have the exit. Can I grab the eight-year-old fast enough? Is my 20-year-old paying enough attention? I just started doing the exit route, and then Buffalo, and I was like, "Oh, now I have to do that at the grocery store?"
Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui: Oh my God, right? I got to go to a concert at Carnegie Hall with Nelda Green, the mother of Anna who died in the Sandy Hook shooting. She is a fierce hope-filled beautiful, Puerto Rican badass and we just had a beautiful conversation. We revisited the permanent nature of this gun violence thing and she did a Twitter thread and I just jumped on the back of it like a grocery store, a FedEx, gurdwara, a church, a chapel, a concert, a dance club, a block party, Melissa, a house party.
We are at epidemic status on this gun shooting thing and this country can't understand that the 2nd Amendment, right to bear arms has got some old colonial crap built in about white people hunting Black people. It should not shock us that if we make it easy to get guns, white people are going to hug Black people and somebody's going to say it was not just about Black people, yes. It is about guns and it is about a culture of violence and it is about hatred and it is about the signs we see in white men who are angry and it is about access to guns.
Melissa, let's not let people simplify this. Yes, we need anti-racist training in schools. Yes, we need to have signs that we see in our children, the warnings, we are so stupidly blind to this issue and we got to connect these dots. Get the guns off the street, pay attention to the signs, and then unstuck the hatred, Melissa. We have got to stop acting like we can't do something about it.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Maybe this is as good as America gets. Where do you find the hope?
Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui: Oh, man, Melissa, you give me hope. Girl, I can't-- listen. On Sunday, [laughs] I was so upset. I was so upset trying to comfort my people. What I came to realize as I was rewriting that sermon Sunday morning if I don't have hope, I'm going to curl up in a ball and die. I cannot bear the possibility that this is all there is and I think that's what faith is ultimately Melissa. I'm a professional faith check, right?
Ultimately, faith is absolutely the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen and you know because our people did this, walked out of slavery and went back to get some more people, worked on voting rights despite their heads being crashed on bridges. Sat at lunch counters to desegregate despite the violence that they suffered, got up when their young people died. Shot killed, and kept moving, survived the assassination of their kids at the hands of so-called fake police.
Melissa, I have hope, because a great cloud of witnesses has shown us that death does not have the last word and good people of moral courage, find their way to each other and do amazing things. Or we move to France and drink wine and get drunk and just die.
It's up to us but I'm thinking, I could do that because go there, ease and cheez, drinks and light and have a nice day but I'm thinking we have to cry and be mad and organize ourselves and be prophetic and find partners and stop the madness so your baby doesn't have to have a baby, sitting in a concert wondering what the exit plan is, Melissa? That's what I have hope in and you are not going to let that happen and I am not going to let that happen.
Melissa Harris-Perry: The Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York, and she's who I call when I'm hurting. Thank you for being here.
Reverend Dr. Lewis Jacqui: [laughs] I love you. I'm glad to come.
Melissa Harris-Perry: We also wanted to be sure you had some space to let us know how you're feeling following this weekend's shooting in Buffalo.
Elise Peebles: My name is Elise Peebles, I'm calling as a former resident of Buffalo, New York. For me, what's the most difficult thing to wrap my head around is just how the shooter was able to find the neighborhood was the densest Black population that only had one grocery store. It was guaranteed to be packed with mostly Black people to know that the math exists for him to put together that formula is really, really, really chilling.
Susan: This is Susan from Richmond, Virginia. I feel it's past time, we changed the law to allow lawsuits for internet providers and website owners. Internet providers should be required to buy insurance to cover lawsuit risks, just like doctors or corporations do.
Sarah: My name is Sarah. I am a New York City school teacher. There are some folks in this country that are focused on removing the discussion of racism and issues of systemic inequality from our curriculum today. The shooting this weekend is a horrific example of the dangers of white supremacy and reminds us that these are issues we must deal with head-on and discussion we must be having at our dinner table in our classroom.
Carlos: Hi. This is Carlos. I'm calling from Pasadena, California. What struck me this morning was that I was dropping off my child for high school and they were feeling traumatized by everything that happened even from the distance. I think part of it is because we're a Latin American family and another part of it is because my child identifies as trans-non-binary and those are two other demographics that have been threatened and dehumanized by the far right.
Edwin Goldberg: Hi, my name is Edwin Goldberg. I'm calling from Northeast Philadelphia. I am so afraid of what's happening in our country of all the hate that is in our country. The person who did the Buffalo shooting just had so much hate. That I'm afraid that, like my ancestors before me, I may need to leave the country because I'm not safe here.
Speaker: I'm deeply saddened because going to the supermarket is such a normal thing. My mother used to love to go to the supermarket. But I'm not surprised because I think this white supremacy thing has been going on for a long time, and for some reason, people are not paying attention to it.
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