My heart is very heavy tonight. The loss of black life is overwhelming today. Five were shot in Minneapolis at the hands of white supremacists last night. Then there was the release of a video of a malicious killing of a mentally ill young man by Chicago police officer.
After a full day of work I went to Union Station to run errands. I stopped in the Christmas store to buy a gift for my niece. They had a wall full of beautiful ballerina angel ornaments. None of the adult ones I wanted were black. I asked the store manager for help.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said, “do you carry black ballerinas?”
“I’m sorry, we don’t,” she said.
I explained, “I want to buy a ballerina for my niece who loves to dance, but I can’t buy a white one.”
“We’ve tried,” she said. “Black ballerinas are so rare. They just keep telling me they don’t have them.”
I asked, “Even with Misty Copeland?!”
Her jaw dropped. She was silent.
She brought me over to a wall where they did have two ornaments with a black little girl dancing. She wasn’t an angel, but it was close enough. Still, it was all too much.
As she showed me all five black ornaments in a store dedicated to ornaments, tears filled my eyes and began to spill over. We are not wanted in this world. We are erased — from the public through police brutality and mass incarceration. And we are even erased from popular conceptions of Christmas and heaven. There are no black angels there.
Lisa Sharon Harper is chief church engagement officer for Sojourners and co-author of “Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith.”