To everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3 ESV
June 17, 2015.
The last few days have rocked us all to the core. Like many of you, I have read about the events that transpired at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. But as politicians and pundits weighed in, I grew uncomfortable.
Truth is, I am all too aware of the privilege given me by my race and my birth. While I grew up in the segregated South, and my parents did their best to teach us that racism is wrong and evil, I never had to live with the consequences of another’s prejudice. My children have gone to great public schools. We have lived in relatively safe neighborhoods, and own more than we need.
What can I bring to this conversation? As a pastor and a chaplain, I see the results of inequality and prejudice in health care every day. I have listened to grandmothers and mothers tell me about their deceased child and grandchild. I do not have answers and find it difficult to know what to say. My chaplain’s training has taught me that words, particularly when everyone is so deeply in grief, do not heal. Words become noise that attempts to fill the painful silence. But this goes deeper. Much deeper than just grief.
The systemic evil of racism is the stench in this event, one that has turned a tragedy into a scratch-‘n-sniff photo op. I stopped watching news stories when the talking heads began to analyze it. Many chose to gloss over it, or assigned other reasons for why nine people were murdered at church on that Wednesday night.
I sit with the sadness and the growing frustration that far too many in White America don’t see it as “their” problem.
The reality is, if we do not actively work to speak against racism and the evil it spawns, we are allowing its influence to grow. But before we speak, we must listen.
- Hear the stories of police brutality, of being suspects solely because of one’s skin color.
- Hear what it means to raise a family without the white picket fence and SUV.
- Hear about the missed opportunities or being denied a job because of a thinly veiled white supremacy.
- Hear the self-justification that causes history to be twisted into “heritage” to assuage White guilt.
- Hear about the rage of being dehumanized and objectified.
There is a time to listen, and a time to speak.
To those of you who are touched personally by racism every day, we are listening. I am listening.
To those of you who speak words that smack of prejudice, we will speak up. We, as your brothers and sisters in Christ, will not allow your racist words to go unchallenged. I will call out those who spew racism whenever I hear it. And more importantly, I expect to be called out when I speak out of my privilege and insensitivity.
I cannot know how you feel or what you are coping with today. I can only pray with renewed passion for justice to prevail, and for the time of love and the time of peace to come. Soon, Lord Jesus. Maranatha.