I sit and dance with the cursor— two words forward, one delete back, in rhythm with the collective throb of our country’s pulse of need. It feels odd, even wrong to write about what I had planned, and it feels careless to not write about what is happening in our country, families, friends, and ourselves right now. My words feel wanting, an inadequate addition to what is already out there, but I believe our faith community is tasked and even charged to act in support of those in need: to Black communities, to sick communities, to the vulnerable, and to people helping effect change and safety for our people and country.
The streets are filled with voices. Demands for change and reform. There is mourning, empowerment, defeat—a righteous anger embodying visual realities and calls to action. And I stand with them and know that this is also not enough. I, like you, have probably seen a lot of references to Luke 15. You know– the 100 sheep and the one goes missing. Jesus leaves the 99 and goes after the one. And then there’s Mosiah 29. Speaking to unrighteous acts of the powerful. I picture a transparency of these parables and accounts laid on top of current news headlines. Their story is often our story.
Racism is a call to understand ourselves better.
I feel the Savior is there. He is here. Standing in the uncomfortable spaces with us, besides us, teaching as he always does.
While feeling woefully unqualified at being another white voice attempting to create content, I remembered a moment that I think about often.
During July, 2018, I attended a slavery and abolition conference for educators in New York. While walking in Harlem to our next lecture location, the instructor stopped us and gestured to everything and nothing in particular on the streets. “This,” he said. “This. You are looking at and witness to the direct generational and very true realities of slavery, and systemic and institutionalized racism. This is not a story about far, far away or once upon a time. They are living embodiments of that legacy.” While its poignancy for me was a culmination of interaction with different knowledge and communities during the conference, I still hope that idea can sit with us all for a moment because, again, racism is a call to understand ourselves and, I believe, the Savior and our gospel better.
The organization that hosted the conference, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, made a statement yesterday and closed with a powerful quote I think is edifying and worth sharing in 2020. It’s a 1777 plea from African Americans appealing for equal rights during the Revolutionary War.
“…your Petitioners apprehend that they have, in common with all other Men, a natural and unalienable right to that freedom, which the great Parent of the Universe hath bestowed equally on all Mankind, & which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever—But they were unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of Power, from their dearest friends, and some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender Parents—from a populous, pleasant and plentiful Country—& in Violation of the Laws of Nature & of Nation & in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity, brought hither to be sold like Beasts of Burthen, & like them condemned to slavery for Life…In imitation of the laudable example of the good People of these States, your Petitioners have long & patiently waited the event of Petition after Petition by them presented to the Legislative Body of this State, & can not but with grief reflect that their success has been but too similar—They can not but express their astonishment, that it has never been considered, that every principle from which America has acted in the course of her unhappy difficulties with Great-Britain, pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of your Petitioners…whereby they may be restored to the enjoyment of that freedom which is the natural right of all Men—& their Children…” Lancaster Hill, Peter Bess, Brister Slenser, Prince Hall, Jack Pierpont, Nero Funelo, Newport Sumner, and Job.
To learn and then act is Christ’s way, and I hope to be a better disciple in this respect. To repent and make right.