Our Country is on Fire

Maria Kim

Our country is on fire.

Not in the colloquial way we use that term, like it’s lit, it’s popping, it’s amaze.

But in the literal and devastating use of that term like the city of Minneapolis, and the scars of our country, are literally on fire.

My heart is so heavy and my shame so high when I reflect upon what happened to George Floyd, to so many before him, to so many beyond him. I mourn and I grieve and I want to learn more about Mr. Floyd, and about Ahmaud Arbery, an avid jogger and future electrician; and about Breonna Taylor, who was an EMT, an essential worker; and about Tony McDade, a trans man and returning citizen who was lovingly referred to as “Tony the Tiger” by friends and family. I mourn and I grieve most especially because I know this list is of course not inclusive of all the Black people resting in power who matter, taken from us too soon.

The trauma so many of us feel is toxic and sits in our bones and taxes our muscles and hurts our hearts in ways that have both sustained and debilitating effects for generations. And yet I know whatever I am experiencing is only a fraction, if not an abstraction, of the trauma that exists and persists for black and brown people everywhere.

I do not know how we heal, if we do, or when we do; but I do know it cannot happen unless we have the courage to look at the system in its eye and say I see you and the blatant racism in which you choose to exist. I see you, George Floyd, and the life that was taken from you by someone who was supposed to protect and serve.

I do know that we are not free until we all our free.
That we are not whole until we all are seen whole.
That we do not move forward until we link arms with the person behind us, fierce red rover style, not letting any of the evil, the racism, the hatred come through or come true.

I also know that in some small way, we can find our way back to hope.
That we can remember we are supposed to be one place that is shelter from this storm.
That an antidote to the ugliness of racism is the beauty of relational richness, of being able to see each other with the depth and the vibrancy of our color inside and out.

The pathway back to hope is long, and at times feels like the 100 mile march – without end, filled with potholes, under a blistering sun, wearing century-old shoes, and carrying the weight of our forefathers and theirs on our shoulders and against our back.

But we move ahead, one step at a time, and we get angry when we need to, take a rest when we need to, forgive who we can, and hold accountable who we can’t, and keep bending that damn arc.

Because we know, or maybe we just step out on faith, that it is indeed bending towards justice.

With you in the fight, I know it will.

Maria Kim is the President & CEO of Cara. She holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business and serves on the boards of the EPIC Academy and Rebuilding Exchange. She is a 2020 member of the Presidential Leadership Scholars and previously served as a co-chair on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition committee.