I don’t know how I feel . . .

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Today, as usual, I stopped by my local coffee shop where the friendly, courteous barista asked me, as she does every day, “How do you feel?”

I blurted out my routine, perfunctory, usual, everyday customary response: “Fine, and you?”

I walked out and pondered the lie. . . . I wasn’t fine. In fact, I don’t know how I feel. I returned to the coffee shop and spent an hour talking with her. Neither of us was “fine.”

After the recent killing of those sworn to protect and serve in Dallas AND the killing by  those sworn to protect and serve in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Ferguson, and so many other cities… I honestly don’t know or understand this feeling. It has gone beyond sadness, gone beyond disgust, gone beyond anger, beyond sorrow, beyond fear. This feeling for me and for so many others is new, yet to be defined or given a name.

Angrily, I am prepared to answer the standard litany of questions from folks about the victims:

“Why didn’t he just not resist?”

“Did he have an arrest record?”

“Did he have a job?”

“Was he married to his children’s mother?”

“Why aren’t you as upset when it is ‘black on black’ murder?”

“If the officers are guilty, why are there never any convictions?”

“Were the officers white?”

“Was the sniper black?”

“Was he connected to any ‘terrorist’ movements?”


Sadly, more people are killed. More people not going home for dinner tonight or ever again.

Police officers who overwhelmingly help us sleep comfortably at night and are often times underappreciated were senselessly killed as they protected folk who voiced displeasure and concern about the killing of young men around the country.

Earlier this week, we witnessed yet again young African American men killed at the hands of a system that is paid for and sanctioned by our tax dollars or by society. Young lives and children of God also taken too soon. Lives that have dignity, persons who by U.S. legal standards are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, the lives of those shot dead in inner cities are just as valued, just as precious. Life matters. For urban youth, for law enforcement, for us.

… I don’t know how I feel . . . perhaps a bit guilty for still being here, as an African-American male who has also, like so many other persons of color, looked down at an un-holstered revolver during a traffic stop. For some reason, I and the persons traveling with me were spared. I don’t know how I feel.

… I don’t know how I feel as I joyfully celebrate progress while simultaneously sadly lamenting regress. Poverty, crime, unemployment, environmental racism, and despair flourish throughout the country, yet disproportionately in black and brown communities.

…I don’t know how I feel. I have so many good friends in law enforcement, mostly in North Texas, including Dallas, who are experiencing intense pain, and feeling vulnerable and exposed as they protect and serve with dignity and professionalism.

… I don’t know how I feel when folks still find comfort in asking the same old, tired questions that seem to comfort and appease their consciences and not address the problems.

I feel confused as we chalk this one up and wait for the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one. The next government sanctioned, gang related, rage-filled, terroristic, domestic violence, or mental illness caused- killing of another of our brothers, our sisters, our children . . . and then wait on the next one.

There will be vigils, prayers, protests, and screams of anguish, trials, and tons of tears but will there be change?

I don’t know how I feel . . . hopeless, in despair, weak, I just want to just sleep, but can’t. Because to use the mantra of the new movement, I have to “stay woke”. To heed the words of Pope Francis, “Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armour’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” To heed the words in Matthew 26:52: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

I don’t know how I feel, but I feel like there has to be a better way.

A retired prison warden friend of mine reminded me that on most prison yards, there are no guns. Prison guards don’t have them and yet they figure out a way to take down the most hardened criminals without shooting or killing them.

Sometimes I feel like giving up but then I remember that anti-violence and restorative justice efforts are steadfast and aren’t giving up despite overwhelming odds. Fr. Michael Pfleger and the faithful around St. Sabina’s Catholic Church in Chicago are not giving up. The California Catholic Conference is not giving up. Rev. Michael McBride and the dedicated folks in the Live Free Movement aren’t giving up. Despite all, folks aren’t giving up!

I feel encouraged by this new movement of young folk of all races that seem to have more energy, more clarity, and more optimism than movements of the past. For the most part, they are peaceful and determined.  They are not giving up.

I thank God that I can still feel … feel for Dallas AND Minnesota AND Baton Rouge AND…

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


7 thoughts on “I don’t know how I feel . . .

  1. I do not feel there is real commitment to change. There are as you say many outpourings of anger, sorrow ect. However it seems people want this to stop over night and when it doesn’t all is abandoned and the rhetoric starts all over.
    We need small steps toward short term goals. I’ll compare it to a puzzle. Every piece will not fit right away, but slowly built, the picture will come together, small goals will be achieved and more importantly trust will be established. At that point when problems arise, we will have a common starting point towards solving them.
    A new day? Nope, just an opportunity to make things a little better.


  2. Well said Mr. McCloud,
    I coming from the 60’smovement and all the progress that was to come from that has also had me questioning our Nation at this time. I am very proud as well of the young folk that have finally taken up the charge and given me a sigh of relief. We may be tired but their mission to end racism, injustice, poverty, and inequality has just begun. Let us pray, endorse and support them. They are the future of this Nation. Let’s hope they don’t get tired until they get it right. From the White House to Wall Street, let’s give them the push to get it done. For all Americans!!! Let’s make America great again for all the right reasons. Let this be a movement towards inclusiveness for all. Let this be a movement for all Americans. Let this be the greatest movement for the Love of Humanity we wish to see in this World in our Lifetime!


  3. Mr. McCloud,
    I also share your sentiments on the tragic events of the past few weeks. I have heard you speak at several events and consider you a thoughtful, compassionate man and I admire your dedication to our community.
    I too, am very much anguished by the current events and I would like to share my thoughts on them with you. My perspective is one of a poor immigrant that came to this great country with not much to offer. Early on I figured out that on every encounter I had with Americans, I was by default 20 points behind, as their assumptions of me where not the best, even though they had never previously met me. I also figured out that that opinion was based on those people’s previous interactions with my fellow “ambassadors” that had come before me. I therefore determined that that was going to be a fact of life that I had to contend with as long as the facts remained. ie, I was in the US, was a Mexican, was named Lupe, absent any change in those facts, the norm remained. Therefore, I had to be that much better just to overcome the “normal” deficit in everyday life. So, Mr. McCould, you could say I had a small, very small taste of the “Black” experience in America. Having said that, being in a foreign country, I had to learn the rules, then play them the best I could, which bring us to todays topic, this racial conflict. From my vantage point I’m also confused, confused because it seems like a one sided conversation that the extremes have appropriated for themselves.
    This conflict between the police and the minority community seems to have been brewing for a while, and now we are at a point where people are making outlandish comments on both sides and the (I hope) silent majority is quiet, therefore validating by default those statements, my questions would be;
    By declaring that only blacks can police in black communities, is that by default not racist?
    Does it mean that only white cops should patrol white neighborhoods?
    What is gained by breaking down the institutions that make for a civil society?
    What takes the place of those institutions?
    Are we playing by the same rules?
    So yes, these are some challenging times, when the best and the worst comes out of us, we must decide to be better than this, we are better than this. The US has been a great county to me, I’m proud to be an American now, to say that my children are Americans. It is not perfect, but a lot better than most other places, and I guarantee it, a lot better for the down and out.
    God Bless


  4. Your post is evocative, moving and a welcome offer to deeper reflection, thanks. However, when you write
    “Prison guards don’t have [guns] and yet they figure out a way to take down the most hardened criminals without shooting or killing them.”
    Surely, the point is that – unlike on the streets – the prisoners also have no guns. That’s the way the guards have figured out to take them down without shooting them. Since the prisoners gave no guns, the situation is not comparable to that a policeman faces on the streets, of being shot any time he gets out if his patrol car.


  5. This describes what I’m going through. I like to believe that I love everyone, but the whole of what has happened has shaken me to my core. There has been a flood of non descriptive emotions in my soul. Thank you for putting into words what I have struggled to do.


  6. Probably the closest I can describe the feeling is feeling guilty for being indifferent! There have been so many shooting recently for example : San Bernardino, CALIFORNIA, Sandy Hook Elementary School In Newtown, CONNECTICUT ,Charleston, SOUTH CAROLINA , Aurora, COLORADO, Blacksburg, VIRGINIA. It looks like one is worst than the last one.

    According to some studies “there were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870” I feel hope when I see those courageous young people saying minorities lives matter.I would like to believe that my generation will change things.

    Is it to be American have a pro-gun culture and violence culture?


  7. Pingback: USCCB Dept of Justice, Peace, & Human Development News July 15th | Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Parish

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