Tag Archives: racial justice

No turning back

A friend’s post on Facebook today reminds me of the power of racism and of my need to respond.

Describing an experience from earlier today, my friend writes:

A bunch of people in a car just tried to run me off the road while calling me racial slurs and pulling their eyelids at me.

Horrifying. Horrible. Scary. Despicable. Stupidity. All the words shared by my friend’s friends apply.

Other words do as well.

Bigotry. Racism. A call to action.

In particular, people, such as me, who are part of the dominant culture, need to act:

  • To speak when bigotry and hatred rear their heads.
  • To challenge stereotypes in print, on video and wherever they appear.
  • To confront our friends, our families, ourselves when we use or accept stereotypes.
  • To learn the histories and current realities of our brothers and sisters. To learn how those histories shape current realities of our brothers and sisters. And how they shape the current reality of the dominant culture.
  • To take the responsibility to name racism for what it is.
  • To study systems of privilege to understand how they work and how they benefit us and how they can be resisted and dismantled and remade.
  • To consider where we live, where we go to school, how we use our money, who are the professionals who provide services to us, who owns the businesses we support.
  • To remain open to new understandings, new commitments, new challenges, new responsibilities.
  • To recognize that the commitment to seek racial justice lasts a lifetime.

That’s a partial list. Put together quickly. At a moment when my heart aches for a friend. I will revisit it. Amend it. Add to it.

The journey goes on. The struggle continues. There is no turning back.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Friends

A resolution worth making

Several hours ago, New York television stations reported that people have already begun to gather in Times Square to welcome the New Year.

As the New Year approached 150 years ago, people across the United States prepared to welcome a moment of immense significance.

President Lincoln had issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It provided that if the states in rebellion against the United States did not cease fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in those states or parts of those states would be declared free from that date forward.

The fighting did not cease. On December 31, 1862, the nation waited. African-Americans gathered for Watch Night Services awaiting the word. And the word came.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery outright. It did not immediately free anyone as the Union could not enforce the proclamation in the rebellious states. It did not address the issue of slavery in the so-called border states. It did not recognize that many people held in slavery had taken matters into their own hand and had freed themselves.

But the Emancipation Proclamation sent a message of hope to African-Americans. It sent a message of support to all who worked for freedom. It sent a message of intention to the nation and the nations. The war to preserve the Union became a war for human liberation as well.

The Emancipation Proclamation provided a measure of protection to the African-Americans who had freed themselves or who had been freed either by the efforts of the Union army or abolitionists. It paved the way for further steps such as the acceptance of African-Americans into the U.S. military and the eventual abolition of slavery.

This 150th anniversary affords an opportunity to remember the events of the past and to remember the people, our ancestors, who gave of themselves that all people might know freedom, justice, and equality.

This 150th anniversary affords an opportunity to repent, acknowledging that, while great strides have been made, the journey to racial justice remains long and challenging. We have work to do.

And so this 150th anniversary affords ourselves an opportunity, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “to rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the [children] of God, and our [sisters and brothers] wait eagerly for our response.”

May it be so.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Human Rights

I prayed for Trayvon

I prayed for Trayvon Martin today during the Training Day sponsored by the Presbyterian Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries.

I had called my friend and colleague J. Herbert Nelson, the director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness on Wednesday saying that we should remember Trayvon’s death in some way. He agreed. I said I would bring one of my hoodies.

I arrived in D.C. on Thursday and J. Herbert asked if I would pray and include a prayer for Trayvon. After some reflection and prayer, I came up with an idea.

I put my hoodie in my backpack and carried it with me to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. After J. Herbert preached, we sang A Mighty Fortress. During the next to the last verse, I went up to the chair beside J. Herbert, put down my backpack, and got the wireless mic. When the hymn ended and the congregation sat down, I moved into the pulpit and began.

“Sometimes we pray with words. Sometimes we pray in silence. Sometimes we pray through symbolic actions. Today we will pray in all three ways.”

I left the pulpit, picked up my backpack, and moved to a table set up in the center of the pulpit area. The table would later be used for a panel presentation.

In silence, I opened my backpack, and removed my hoodie. I deliberately shook it out so all could see. I then held it as high above my head as I could and slowly rotated it so that it faced each part of the congregation. It also prevented me from making eye contact with anyone and bursting completely into tears.

After I had shown the hoodie to the whole congregation, I snapped the hood back and showed it to everyone again.

Then I put on the hoodie and slowly rotated so everyone could see me.

Finally, I raised the hood to cover my head and moved back to the pulpit.

There I prayed with words for Trayvon and for all children who are victims of overt violence – children whose names are known and whose stories are told, children who are known only to the family and friends who love them.

I prayed for all children who are victims of structural violence – economic injustice, racism, homophobia – the systemic realities that shape our lives and too often stunt and snuff out the lives of children.

I prayed for those who gathered in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy for justice in Jesus’ name. May we have the grace to move from a love of power and the wisdom and courage to continue our ministry of speaking truth in love to power – this weekend and always. May it be so.

I uncovered my head and stepped down from the pulpit. As I moved back to my seat I again made sure not to make eye contact.

I am grateful to J. Herbert for this opportunity. I wish I could do more. I will.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Photo

I wish I had made a sign like that

It isn’t the best photo, but her sign conveys a powerful message. I wish I had thought to make such a sign for the Million Hoodie March that started on New York City’s Union Square. I thanked her.

Hoodies were not required – I went straight from work.

Check out #millionhoodiemarch for more about the evening.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Photo