08 THE SHADOWS

Song 06 - Breaking Ground. Click to explore themes and stories relating to this song.

What was it like to have a racial justice awakening in 2020?

Introduction
Lyrics
Stories and Remembrances


INTRODUCTION

We hatched the initial vision of this album project in the spring of 2020, at which point we thought it would be a project centered on people’s experience of the global-historic event of the pandemic. But as the months of the year rolled on, it became apparent to us that the significant events of this extraordinary year — all of which were, indeed, in some ways colored by coronavirus — sprawled out beyond the scope of the pandemic itself. So it became apparent to us that, in order to truly reflect our collective experience of this time, this project may need to expand in scope as well. (click to continue reading)

Given that aim, when we started our research and began asking questions about people’s experience of the year, we kept the questions as open-ended as possible. Questions like:

“What were your top three most significant experiences of 2020?” 
“What were the sources of your greatest hardships and greatest joys in 2020?”
“What were some things you learned about the world or about yourself in 2020?”

These questions surfaced answers from many people in our community that revealed their personal experience with the racial justice awakening that we witnessed across the nation in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

People shared with us how they became more aware, or aware for the first time, of the inequities experienced by people in nearly every facet of our society that are directly mapped to race — like in policing and public safety, income and wealth, clean air and water, healthcare, education, voting, banking, housing … the list is long.

People shared with us how they felt compelled more than ever before to begin, or to dive deeper into, an examination of the causes of those inequities; and that they learned just how deeply embedded each of them is in the scaffolds around which our entire society is constructed.

… About how the world-historic wealth of this country was built upon stolen land, and upon the backs of people’s whose lives, labor, and freedom were stolen. 

… About how we as a nation have never made amends or reparations for those original sins.

… About how those of us who live in white skin benefit from the hierarchy that those structures have created and reinforced since the founding of the country. 

… About how we as individuals have harbored racist ideas — often without even realizing that’s what we were doing — that have served to give cover to, excuse, and support the racist structures that perpetuate injustice.

… About how when we deny that we, as individuals, have a responsibility to examine our own racism, we provide exactly the food that keeps injustice alive and makes it grow. That denial of our own racism preserves a status quo that is oppressive of, harmful to, and often violent toward entire groups of people. 

… And about how our refusal to look at the shameful parts of our history,
our unwillingness to inspect the dark corners of our own minds,
our failure to dismantle the systems that ensnare and oppress so many people,
is a surefire way to ensure the eventual demise of our society itself. 

Because … “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Or, like Dr. Ibram X. Kendi describes in his transformational book How To Be an Antiracist: racism is a stage 4 metastatic cancer living in the body of our society. We can choose to deny that it exists; but if we do, we will witness the destruction it will bring to every part of our body politic. It will take us down if we don’t fight like hell to take it down first. 

And … as we heard from people in our story collection (as well as learned from our own personal experience) … this is not easy work. Eradicating racism in ourselves and in our society requires heaping helpings of …
… humility … to examine where and how we’ve gotten it wrong,
… curiosity … to look beyond our own experience, 
… openness … to listen to those who have been engaged in this work for a long time,
… compassion … to take on our neighbor’s plight as our own,
… willingness … to do the work to change ourselves and our world
… persistence … to keep doing those things over and over and over again, until the work is done.

And imagine … the beauty, prosperity, and peace that we will all get to enjoy
when a critical mass of us become humble, curious, open, compassionate, willing, and persistent enough
to create a just world. 
That’s a vision worth doing the work for. 

:::

There is one quote from our story collection that spurred the idea behind the central metaphor of this song:
“I still have to clear out all my racist cobwebs that are still hiding in my brain’s shadows.” 

Yes. Me, too.

I own up to the fact that I should have realized it years ago,
but knowing now where the shadows exist, and just how dark they are …
… it’s way past time to flood this place with light.  

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LYRICS

Nobody ever comes down here
The dust has collected for four hundred years
Dark rooms make the foundation of this house
Yeah, they were built by someone else
But all the contents are ours
Because we live here now (click to continue reading)

Old ships in bottles keep the score
Which one carried your ancestors and predestined your course?
Redacted pages, the record of our collective shame
Just names and names and names
Rubbed out of their early graves
Now ready fuel for the flames

The shadows
Conceal the webs
Spun to hold captives
And bleed them to death
They still hang from every scaffold of american life
I’ve given them cover in the corners
Of my own mind
The shadows keep me blind
Time to flood this place with light

Nothing is new here under this sun
What’s illuminated takes the breath out of my lungs
I’ve been far too comfortable living in the lavish home
Built upon these bones
This edifice has to go
Once you know you can’t unknow

The shadows
Conceal the webs
Spun to hold captives
And bleed them to death
They still hang from every scaffold of american life
I’ve given them cover in the corners
Of my own mind
The shadows keep me blind
My beating heart cannot abide it
I am so late to get right-sided
Time to flood this place with light

words and music by Shannon Curtis
published by Shannon K (ASCAP)
all rights reserved; lyrics reprinted by permission

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STORIES AND REMEMBRANCES

If you have a story to share about having a racial justice awakening in 2020, please send it to Jamie at jamie@misfitstars.com.

  • georgia s.
    I realized that I simply can’t call the cops. I haven’t yet figured out a good alternative — and I welcome any suggestions — but I’m not willing to risk my neighbors’ lives, even when they’re doing something annoying or suspect. (And I say this as someone who used to call in noise complaints practically… Continue reading georgia s.