Dear People of Saints James and Andrew,
Over these last few months we have been forced to come face to face with our own powerlessness. It has been painful and hard, yet ultimately it has been a gift from God. This may be the first time in my own life I have been required to think so critically about my actions and motivations. If I choose to leave the house, do I wear a mask? (Yes). If I leave the house, who might I be putting at risk? (Only God knows, though science suggests quite a few people). While this kind of pandemic-induced critical thinking is new to me, it has been a matter of survival for those with brown and black bodies. Not just now, but always.
Think about that for a moment. As a privileged, white woman the only questions I generally used to concern myself with when leaving the house concerned the weather conditions and if the sidewalk was well lit enough to walk safely home alone. When I drive faster than the posted speed limit, and see flashing lights in my rearview, my primary concern is whether I am going to get a ticket. I pray the officer will let me off with a warning (an abuse of prayer if there ever was one). I have never needed to worry about keeping my hands on the steering wheel where they can be seen, or keeping my tone as respectful as possible so I’m not asked to step out of the car. I have literally never been in a position where I might have an officer take a knee on my neck and remove my very breath from my body. Nor have I had someone call the police because I look suspicious as I birdwatch, or be shot because my hoodie sweatshirt causes concern about the safety of the neighborhood. Nor must I worry about what might be assumed of my children as they play outside and ride their bikes. If that is not the tip of the iceberg of my white privilege I am not sure what is.
Friends, we have a moral obligation to address the systemic racism in the church and in our nation. We can not sit at home wishing folks would simply find more peaceful ways to protest. That is our privilege talking, and our privilege needs to be quiet and listen to the cries of our black and brown neighbors. We need to listen, learn, repent, reconcile and be changed. Black lives matter, and we need to stop passively hoping things will get better on their own. They will not get better until we collectively step up and do the work of dismantling racism.
One of the simplest things we can do is challenge our assumptions and be intentional in our language. It might be easiest to begin this work by picking up a book and doing some reading. I have been moved by the work of Lenny Duncan, who wrote Dear Church: A love letter from a black preacher to the whitest denomination in the U.S. Similarly, Molly has just finished reading Howard Thurman’s work, Jesus and the Disinherited. Others have highly recommended Austin Channing Brown’s work, I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness and James H. Cone’s, The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
Cara Hins has invited fellow parishioners to join her in reading Latasha Morrison’s work, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s heart for racial reconciliation. If you are interested in joining her, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can check out this list of Anti-Racism Resources which features resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children, articles and books to read, videos to watch, podcasts to subscribe to, films and TV series to watch, organizations to follow on social media, and links to additional resources.
You can learn more about Becoming Beloved Community: the Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice by following our local Episcopal branch Beloved Community WMA on Facebook.
You can read what Bishop Fisher and Presiding Bishop Curry have to say about current events.
Be empowered. Our experience with this pandemic might have given us a deep inside look at powerlessness. Yet it is a lesson we have desperately needed. We can now open our eyes to the oppression and systemic racism happening all around us and begin the even more difficult work of listening, learning, repenting, reconciling, and being changed.
Yours in Christ,