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A friend and mentor began a recent meeting by noting that we are experiencing “a letting go that sometimes feels excruciating.” It is a teaching time, but also a time of division and tumult. How we continue to respond to the challenges in our world will be the mark of us. Are we the America who went without rubber, without shoes and chocolate and nylon, so as to stamp out fascism in World War II? Or are we an America who equates freedom with the basest selfishness, a tyrannical toddler who refuses inconvenience even as the body count rises?

Who we are at heart will out itself
in small graces, in occasions not taken,
in the less and more of
what we will not do for ourselves,
but what we will do for others.
Change is demanded: for our earth,
for her creatures. Will we rise,
shine silver, mean what we said
when we said who we were?
The promise of America
lies within grasp: It will
bloody our fingers to grab it,
but it will also save our soul.

I seem to be writing about the senses a lot lately, especially sight. Maybe that’s because I’m trying to see things clearly. Or maybe it’s because so much of what I see is hurtful and in need of change. What about you? What are you seeing? Does your seeing bring you optimism? I hope so.

“Pluck it out.”
You make it sound so easy.
Yet it isn’t my eye that offends,
but what it sees:
a nonstop parade of casual cruelty,
even as the eyes of the world
look on, aghast.
We have a moment now.
The plates are shifting.
We can move mountains.
Or we can ignore the rumbling
beneath our feet and set our faces
like flint, even as we slide into the sea.
Look. See. Find the focus and fight, push.
We cannot slow down now, lest we lose
what we love, the shape of the land,
the idea of us, of all that we could be —
but only if none of us is left behind.

Anyone who says that they love change, in my not-so-humble opinion, is speaking from a position of power.  This is someone who is generally the engine of change. This is not the person who suddenly finds themselves looking for a new doctor since their old one is no longer or their insurance plan.  This is not the woman who learns that she is no longer on Medicaid.

Even positive change is hard if for no other reason than the fact that we need to learn change is needed.

This morning I listened to episode three of “Uncomforable Conversations with a Black Man,” a Youtube show with retired NFL player Emmanuel Acho.  Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper talked about discussing race with their kids.  “We want them to be color blind.”

This is something that you hear white people say.  But Acho explained why that is not what black people want.  It is not what they need.  Instead we need to see people and their cultures and respect them.

I don’t know if Acho and his guests “pre-discuss” the various topics they plan to cover or if it is truly candid, but neither Chip or Joanna batted an eye.  They listened, they heard, and they put in the effort to understand.

We aren’t at the Tower of Babel but sometimes it feels like we may as well be.  For years, the dominant society has been told that things are not fair.  Given how well it was heard, you’d think it was said in a different language.

It is time to listen.  It is time to do.  It isn’t going to be comfortable but God is with us every step of the way.

–SueBE

 

Have a problem? Ignore it! It is, after all, the American way. If we didn’t do so much testing, we wouldn’t have so many COVID-19 cases — this, according to our own government. True. We’d just have masses of people dying of…something. By that logic, no one ever need have cancer again. Just don’t get screened for it!

Racism, too, is a subject Americans have often ignored, hoping the pain and agony of over 300 years will simply “go away.” Guess what? It won’t.

We have a choice to make. Remain ignorant or confront the painful truth. Which will it be?

Moles are content, I wager,
blind and underground.
It is no place for people.
Open your eyes
and the light will blind you,
true. It will also heal you.
As scales fall from your lids,
you will quake, your inner Saul
excised like cataracts under a laser.
Being Paul will feel as uncomfortable
as an icy plunge, but you will ease into it,
the temperature of the water slowly
warming to buoy your body.
You will see underwater,
without distortion.
It will come as a shock.
True wisdom always does.
There is nothing to do
but bow to the pain of it.
The price is too high
to stumble on, unconverted.

Beata Zawrzel—NurPhoto/Getty Images

Drop me off in a snowstorm, and you might lose me. I’m not just Caucasian, I’m lily white. Polar bear pale. But I can tell you one thing: Black Lives Matter.

I thought it went without saying that to say, “Black Lives Matter” is not to say that no one else’s life matters.

The other day, I had to “unfriend” someone on Facebook because she posted these hashtags: “AllLivesMatter” and “CopsLivesMatter.”

This means that, despite seeing the video of George Floyd being choked to death by an officer who had his knee on Floyd’s neck, she believes that the police are always in the right.

It’s shocking to see something so graphic and realize that someone else doesn’t appreciate the gravity and brutality of the incident.

In this unprecedented time, the country is contending with two virulent contagions: COVID-19 and systemic racism.

If only there were a way to implant a moral compass into everyone’s heart, the way a surgeon does a pacemaker. Or give the whole world an empathy-injection, along with our B-12 shots. 

There’s no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, and certainly no vaccine for racism.

You can’t regulate or legislate hate out of a heart, but short of that, there are a few concrete steps to be taken:

  1. Remove the issue of police discipline from union labor negotiations. Many police union rules protect officers who act violently. 
  2. Enforce the use of body cameras so that officers aren’t allowed to turn them off to commit acts of violence.
  3. Fire any officer using choke-holds or excessive force on a citizen.

We’ve got some deep rifts in this country now, and many wounds in need of healing. As for those who deny there are systemic problems in law enforcement and implicit bias toward people of color? Sadly, there’s no vaccine for that.

Whole oceans of grief
threaten to consume us.
Pass sadness into every hand;
let us drink it and know
why it cannot still be served.
Waves lash relentlessly:
names pile painfully
on the sand. Say them.
Words repeated will
beat the drum for justice.
Sure, the tide will roar,
as it does, afraid of change
when surely it knows
all things must change.
Open your eyes to color,
its beauty and importance.
The shore will not erode —
not if we hold hands.

addamsNot everyone who sees this post will have experienced racism. Not directly. But you’ve probably seen it even if you didn’t know what you were seeing.

A black customer being followed through the store.  Did she slip something into her purse?  A friend told me about a co-worker, a beautifully dressed black woman who was followed by security on countless occassions.

A black driver pulled over beside the road.  You may have assumed that the driver did something wrong, but he or she may simply have committed the crime of driving while black. This week a friend asked how to advise her adopted son.  She is white.  He is not.  Another friend, a black woman, said that when she gets pulled over, she calls her sister and leaves the line open.  Not if she gets pulled over.  When.

Last week Lori suggested that we begin by decolonizing our reading.  There are so many books out there.  Where should you start? Before Lori wrote her post, my book was recommended by a librarian on Twitter.  Here is the list of books she recommended:

  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris

To her list, I would add:

  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Abram X. Kendi
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Abram X. Kendi
  • Race and Policing by Duchess Harris and Rebecca Rissman
  • Roots of Racism by Kelly Bakshi
  • Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Abram X. Kendi
  • White Privilege by M. T. Blakemore

Some of these books are for young readers, but in all seriousness I learn just as much from those as I do from the books for adults.

What does all of this have to do with prayer and faith?  Remember that Christ said that when we ignored the orphan, the widow and the imprisoned, we ignored him?  It is time we quit ignoring the problems in our midst.

–SueBE

I’m sorry for not listening. I’m sorry for tuning out, because I could. I’m sorry for not practicing being an ally every day. I’m sorry for not speaking out or speaking louder. I’m sorry for allowing my church, my friends, my government, my acquaintances to fall back on the structures that keep people down. I’m sorry for not marching every single time.

And I’m sorry to make this about me. You don’t need this right now. You don’t need guilt. You need action.

I’m listening.

And to anyone who isn’t, the conversation — the one we’re all avoiding — must be had. Until it has, the shouting will only grow louder, because that’s what happens when people don’t listen.

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