There is an African proverb which says: “The axe forgets, but the tree remembers.”
That proverb kept running through my mind as I tried to make sense of the events of the last week. — A senseless death that if we are honest with ourselves was murder and then protests which became riots plagued by looting.
Sides were quickly taken and what was a justice and human rights issue became for many political.
The thing is, we are not a just society if we do not honor all people and that has nothing to do with politics, it is merely moral, right and honorable to treat all people with dignity and respect. The problem is our nation suffers from “selective memory” and we have become comfortable ignoring much of the past.
Discrimination easily becomes routine when we dismiss (or have we forgotten?) the facts about slavery and the public lynching of thousands of people of color. Our society was the axe that struck and forgot while black men and women are the tree that remembers. The convenient memory loss evolved into the modern problem of racial profiling and mass incarceration of people of color. The unwillingness to speak and teach those truths are part of what brought us to this place.
When white people claim to be offended by terms like systemic racism or white privilege we prove that we have either forgotten our history or more likely never learned the full truth in the first place. Or worse, could it be we don’t care because we do not have to suffer everyday because of the color of our skin?
The time has come dear ones for the church to speak out because society has failed to do so.
We are part of a mostly white denomination, mostly white congregation in a mostly white neighborhood. My question is are we committed enough to the demand for justice for all to even have a conversation about race?
Too often white people out of ignorance or discomfort say stupid things to people of color like, “I don’t even see you as black.” If that is supposed to be a compliment, it is NOT! We should not be color blind but as Bishop Eaton says, “color amazed” where we can recognize with joy the wonders of all our differences of skin tone, hair color, the shapes of our faces and all that makes each individual unique.
Some of us will be participating in a synod wide conversation on race using Jim Wallis’ book “America’s Original Sin” We hope that will provide us with some tools to have respectful and honest conversation with one another.
It is time for us all to pray about where we have fallen short and how we might work to change the society in which we live. No longer can racial discrimination or white privilege be acceptable. Howard Thurman once said: “The power of prayer is directly connected to you allowing yourself to be part of God’s answer.” Let’s pray that God will use us to be part of the solution and will help us stop the axes from striking blows and forgetting the harm that has been done.
Lord, have mercy…
The Rev. Ellen Meissgeier