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It happened in a neighborhood much like yours. My friends — two of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever known — had their home attacked by hatred. Let me set the scene: On their lawn, these friends have placed two signs. One says “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in three languages. The other simply states, “Black Lives Matter.” Lately, a cowardly Someone planted a third sign in their yard. This one was different. Scrawled on poster board were ugly, racist things. My friends were called “America haters” and instructed to “get a job.” (May I also mention that my friends are two of the hardest working folks you might ever meet?)

I spent a long time feeling sad, knowing how I might react to such a thing — with despair, anger and fear. But then I knew just how my friends were going to react to it — with compassion and resilient grace. And I realized: Hate has no chance. None at all.

Hate has no home here.
It scrabbles in crannies,
finding footholds in fearful dark places.
It squints in ignorance, afraid of light
that will certainly kill it, sure as any germ.
Though we long to burn it, let us refrain.
Instead, stand in loving audacity,
face forward into the abyss
that is, after all, only smoke:
quickly dispelled by the ongoing breath
of all who know our God.

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.

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 worry about writing about racism. How good, how honest is my anger and grief? Racism is not, after all, part of my lived experience. Nor is it someone else’s job to educate me on this subject. It is my own. However, in the glaring light of continued, brutal racism in this country, it is up to me to do something. But what? There are resources abundantly available. In the meantime, let’s begin with the easiest thing of all: de-colonizing our bookshelves.

As a child my shelves were full
of children like me and not like me,
from as far off as China, as near
as next door. My vision narrowed
as I grew and neglected to prune.
It is time, and a task we all can do:
Examine the color of your books:
Whose life are you reading —
only your own? The one you know?
Learn to read someone else’s
and share what you find there.
Soak up what’s in the pages,
sound out the consonants
of someone else’s journey.
For every book that comforts,
choose one that does not.
Self-teach a whole new vision.
Start at page one.

Yesterday, this image popped up in my feed.  Something beautiful coming out of darkness?  I just wasn’t feeling it.  Then I read Lori’s “Don’t Look Away.”

From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, Native American children were removed from their families.  They were put into boarding schools where they were punished for speaking their languages.  The purpose was the exterminate entire groups of people.

During World War II, Japanese American were herded into internment camps.  They were forced to live in dirty, substandard conditions.  Many lost the farms they had built on the West Coast.

Now we have children huddled in kennels.  If dogs were found in conditions like this, the Humane Society would come and get them.

Again, we are in darkness.  How can something beautiful come of it?

That’s up to me and to you.  We can decide that never again will the color of a person’s skin dictate their humanity.  We will look for that spark of Christ’s light in every person we see whether their eyes are blue, green or brown.  Like the Samaritan, we will decide that there are risks but the need to do right is so much greater.

The choice is ours, yours and mine.

–SueBE

We’ve been told and told — and still somehow don’t believe — that the only way to counter hate is love. Sure, it’s hard to hold love foremost in the face of evil. It’s hard to respond to the terrible atrocities of the last week or so with a loving heart and joyous words. And it is most difficult to love when all you want to do is shake people until their teeth rattle. But, Lord, I’m going to try.

Make of me, my God,
a new recipe: something sweet
and light, a flutter on the tongue,
butter-bright, subtly spiced.
When the bitter mouths bark, let me
flow in like honey, thick enough to
coat tongues and soothe aching throats.
May I be like bread baking,
like thick soup simmering on the stove,
a promise of warm contentment.
When you are done, may I spring up
in the pan, golden and fragrant,
impervious to anything
that is not an open hand reaching,
reaching to be filled.

You have to be open.  It’s just a fact.  No one wants to talk to you if you are certain that only your way is correct.

When I saw this quote, I knew it was right but how?  I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  And then I saw a video  (see below) by Robin DiAngelo, author of What Fragility.  She discussed how we use phrases like “I’ve been taught not to see race” to shut the conversation down.

I’m not racist.  Boom.  The door slams shut.

This is a big part of why race and racism aren’t discussed openly in our society.  Even those of us who work hard not to be racist have these catch-phrases.  All we have to do and the conversation, the multiracial conversation, shuts down.  Those who might have something to teach you aren’t interested in being told that their experiences didn’t happen like they remember.  They are the ones misinterpreting what was said, what was done, and how they felt.

Us?  We’re good.  Because we aren’t racist.

My church is hosting another talk at the end of the month.  It is the last one we have scheduled before the holiday season.  Me?  I hope it is only the beginning.  Racism doesn’t have to be intentional to be a big deal.  As much as I don’t enjoy these meetings, I’m glad we are doing them.  It is a discussion we need to have as a society and as a Church.

–SueBE

It’s all over the news. Social media, too. People screaming at one another, slapping, beating, threatening, harassing…and for what? For wearing the “wrong” T-shirt. For trying to go swimming at the local pool. For wearing a hijab. For being brown-skinned.

When all we can do is lash out at one another for being “different,” we are in the deepest of deep trouble. If interculturalism teaches us anything, it’s that no two of us are exactly the same. Unless we can deal with that, we are in for one heck of a free-for-all. And nobody is safe.

Forget about beating
swords into ploughshares;
let’s focus on the lightest
of legerdemain, on simple
manipulation of the bones.
Let us turn fists into flattened hands.
Let us bring to each other our brokenness,
our humility. Let us be weak. Mild. Silent.
Let us bow to the God in one another.
And if we cannot, we must lie down at once:
We are already dead.

This past week, my family and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN.  I jokingly referred to the trip as the Edwards Extravaganza because all four siblings ,their kids and the grandparents were along.  Needless to say, we didn’t do everything together.  Something about trying to coordinate sixteen people.  We met up for dinner and games each evening but spent the days out and about.

My husband, son and I trekked over the mountain to Cherokee, NC.  As treks go, it was tame since we were in our Jeep as we drove through the pass and onto the reservation.  It was more than a touch surreal.  Shop signs were in English but street signs?  Cherokee first, English second.

Near the TN/NC border.

Our destination was the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  Before I made my way through the exhibits, I thought I knew something about Cherokee history.  The truth of the matter was that I knew the history we learn in Missouri – the Oklahoma history.  In this museum, I learned about the prehistory, the move to live more like whites, the debate about moving to Oklahoma, Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears, and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

The removal of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears split a people in half.  In spite of this, the museum was marvelously even-handed.  Facts about the Cherokee and the other Civilized Tribes were simply presented.  No one was vilified – not Jackson, not the Cherokee who favored the move. The story of the Cherokee people was told in all it’s complexity.

Yet when I tell people here in Missouri where I went and all I learned, people are more than willing to assign blame. I have to understand why Jackson did what he did; he was from North Carolina.  That one really confuses me since the Cherokee were also from North Carolina. Those Cherokee need to get off the reservation so their children can have a good life. If the Cherokee would work to be more like the mainstream culture, things would be better for them. The Cherokee and other civilized tribes farmed and lived like the dominant culture but were still forced onto the Trail of Tears.  A veneer of white-ness didn’t save them or their homes.

What does it mean to be an American?  It is to be part of a society with a complex history. Do you walk among others as a brother or sister? Or do you expect the fish to fly and the birds to swim?  This museum was definitely something I needed to see and I thank God for putting me on this path.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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