June 4, 2020
Dear Redeemer community,
Over the last week, our national attention has focused on the death of George Floyd, the black man who was killed by police officers in Minnesota. Since his killing, protests, and demonstrations have grown up in many cities around the country and the globe. Some of these actions in America have turned violent, as police and a wide range of other actors have clashed. A great deal of media coverage has focused on the property damage, looting, and destruction which have taken place. The great outrage of the pain and anguish of disenfranchised communities of color and the violence and damage of systemic racism does not get the same coverage as fires or broken glass of storefronts.
All this is taking place in the context of the ongoing pandemic of the coronavirus. On public radio this week, Errin Haines — Editor at large for the 19th* news agency and formerly the National Race and Ethnicity rep. for the Associated Press— spoke of “The pandemic within a pandemic; the dual ills of coronavirus and systemic racism, Both of which must be confronted with a new normal that says “We’re all in this together”.
During this moment of national crisis, the attitude of ‘We’re all in this Together’ has seemed to hold some hope, perhaps that this will be a time for us to unify as a country when we might be able to overcome the deep polarization of our politics. As the church, we are faced with questions about how we can safely resume in-person worship and other activities that we have previously regarded as essential to who we are. These are complex questions amid a challenging moment, but they also hold out the opportunity for us to be part of a profound change.
In this spirit, I would invite all of us to consider the ways white supremacy and systemic racism not only threaten and diminish black and brown people, but the spiritual life of all, including people who look like me, people who live with white privilege. Ms. Haines’ thinking suggests the intersection of racism and disease might help us think about a possibility; “What if we treated the virus of systemic racism the way we are treating the Coronavirus?” She asked.
How do people get sick?
What are the symptoms?
Is there a cure?
How long will it take?
What will it cost?
How do we get it to the most people?
How do we keep people safe?
What is response of the federal government to this?
If we are all in this together, the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual virus of white supremacy need to be confronted and defeated. We can choose to be part of the cure, if we are willing to embrace a new normal that manifests itself by treating black and brown bodies as being sacred and precious, instead of dangerous. By facing the history of racism and white exceptionalism in our national heritage. And by acting in solidarity with poor and marginalized communities, in Boston and beyond.
These are big challenges, and some of you are already working for the cause. But if you are looking for a place to begin from, there are small ways to get involved. The LICA vigil for George Floyd that took place on Wednesday evening was one small step, an indication of the popular support for Black Lives Matter. You can call Gov. Baker or another elected official about directing more money towards schools and social programs in communities facing the dual pandemics of racism and COVID, or call into next week’s Racial Equity Action Group meeting. Kate’s email on Tuesday included a variety of ways we can learn, pray, and act in pursuit of justice and peace.
I confess there are days when I feel too exhausted by the state of the world to do anything about the deep-seeded problems I have described above. I have the privilege to stop thinking about it and turn on TV. But this moment calls us to take courage and follow the example of our Savior
Jesus Christ, who taught us to love our neighbor, and our enemy, secure in the knowledge that we are all beloved children of God, created in the image of the divine.
Yours in the love and peace of God,