Recently someone asked me: “What would your community look like if it loved black people?”
A few answers came to me, but the first and last answer was, “I don’t know and I want to know.” I want to know. I want to be alive when that becomes reality.
I have heard confusion from people about the act of terrorism in Charleston. I am not confused. I am angry. I am tired. I am newly ashamed of my people. I am furious, with the killer, yes, but his actions cannot be undone. We have lost Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. and Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. We cannot bring them back.
Mostly I am angry with myself, with my people, with white America.
Your words matter to me when I see your struggle, your anguish. Your actions matter more.
I deeply believe that we cannot stop this pathological disease of racism with policy alone. Or with changes in economics, although those are maybe more important than we realize.
Racism is a spiritual sickness. I see it every Sunday in my church as we sing and pray and talk but don’t act. We can feel sad and sorry and heavy-hearted, but all our sadness changes nothing.
Racism is a spiritual sickness. Here is what I have learned about spirituality and advocacy from my own faith journey:
Your body matters. If you kneel or prostrate when you pray, it changes how you pray. Where you literally, physically stand matters.
It changes something inside you when you turn off your television, put down your tablet, stand up, walk out of your house and get in your car or take the bus to the place where a black person was killed, and stand on that street corner with other people who are mourning that life, and all the other black lives too, but this one was yours. This one lived there, where you live.
You standing there changes, in a small but necessary way, the fear and hatred of people with brown skin that lives within you.
You standing there acknowledges that this is your responsibility, that racism is your problem, because you are a human being and a member of a society that hates and murders people whose skin is brown.
You standing there starts to change injustice.
During the Holocaust many, many people stayed inside our homes, concerned but silent, invisible. German Lutheran theologian Martin Niemöller is often quoted, but what he said in 1946 seems important today:
“We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt/fault, and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934 – there must have been a possibility – 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, it is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 Communists in the concentration camps, in order to let them die. I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine that we would have rescued 30-40,000 million [sic] people, because that is what it is costing us now.”
Your words matter, my people. But your actions matter more.
For a list of direct actions near you, visit fergusonresponse.tumblr.com. If you know of an event happening in your area, please share it in the comments.
Image of Emanuel AME church courtesy of Wikimedia Commons