By Jessica Brodie
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”—Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. … If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”—1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 26 NIV).
My heart is aching, and I don’t have the right words to keep the pain at bay. Maybe that’s the way it should be—maybe I’m supposed to hurt right now. Maybe I’m supposed to hurt so badly and so deeply that it wakes me from my comfortable slumber and spurs me on to do something, say something, shout something from the proverbial rooftops:
This racial divide must fall!
We must love each other!
We must share our stories, speak the hard truths and let the love and light of God shine through us.
It’s no longer “we should.” Now, it’s “we must.”
After all, God sees our souls. Why can’t we see past difference and realize we are all the same in God?
To those who are more privileged: We must open our eyes and see the pain we have caused just by living. I hear you: “I’m not racist.” “My family never owned someone else.” But look! See! Hear!
All around us all, people are hurting, dying. People are wailing, marching, storming, raging, crying in agony and despair.
This is a wakeup call. Too much. Too long.
I’m white, yes. But I’ve never considered myself privileged—though I know I am. Growing up in Miami, a multicultural swirl of language and skin tones, I was often the outsider with my pale-olive skin. I could pass as Latina—until I opened my mouth. My friends and coworkers were all shades and shapes. Then I moved away, to Ohio and back again, then to North Carolina and now to South Carolina, and my eyes began to open. Life isn’t a lovely racial utopia, as much as I’d like it to be.
The other night, I watched “To Kill A Mockingbird” with my son. I was prepared to say things like, “See how awful it was way-back-when? See how people used to arrest, persecute, judge, just because of the color of someone’s skin?”
And then the news headlines reminded me: It’s still that way. Many of us don’t want it to be. Many of us do not feel that way in the least. But for some, in some places, in some shadowy and fearful corners of this nation, even in broad daylight in the most “accepting” and “loving” places, it is. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. The list goes on, and it breaks my heart. As it should.
Oh, Lord, I beg: What do I do?
All I can do is love. All I can do is pray. All I can do is try to love instead of fear, to speak out when I’m feeling cowardly.
I know in the depths of my soul that one day I will stand in God’s holy and triumphant kingdom, raising my hands and my heart in worship next to brothers and sisters of all colors and tongues and tribes. We are different, yet the same. We are and will be one in God.
And until then, I can do my part to speak up in love and witness, to help break down barriers and build bridges wherever and whenever I possibly can.
I hurt, and I should.
I’m grateful our bishop and other South Carolina United Methodist clergy and lay people took time to acknowledge that hurt and bring awareness to the need for racial reconciliation in the Interfaith Peace Walk June 20 (see article here).
I’m grateful our global church has launched an action plan (“Dismantling Racism: Pressing on to Freedom”) to actively stand against racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd and protests across the U.S. (see article here).
Fear is no excuse. Let’s all hurt together and, together, find a way through this to unity.