Here I am again at 5:15 am, an hour later than I first woke up. This has become a regular wake up call and I can’t get back to sleep. What am I thinking? Why can’t I stop thinking?
These are the words going through my mind today – a song from Sweet Honey in the Rock.
I don’t know how my mother walked her trouble down
I don’t know how my father stood his ground
I don’t know how my people survive slavery
I do remember, that’s why I believe
I don’t know how the rivers overflow their banks
I don’t know how the snow falls and covers the ground
I don’t know how the hurricane sweeps through the land
Every now and then
Standing in a rainstorm, I believe
I don’t know how the angels woke me up this morning soon
I don’t know how the blood still runs thru my veins
I don’t know how I rate to run another day
Standing in a rainstorm, I believe
My God calls to me in the morning dew
The power of the universe knows my name
Gave me a song to sing and sent me on my way
Raise my voice for justice, I believe
It started with the death of George Floyd. And the eruption of anger. The marches. The violence. And the spread of these protests all over the world.
I have been through this before in the 60’s civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King and the relentless demonstrations and push back, and finally the killing of Dr. King. White students and activists from the north going south to sign up black voters. The federal government finally weighing in to open up schools and begin to dismantle the systematic racism in the segregation system that kept black people out of the mainstream promise of equality, and the possibility of a good life. That opened the door – but only a crack. It was a beginning. It was almost 50 years later that a black president was elected. Twice. The door opened another crack, a little bit wider but so did the strength of those holding the door. The opposition almost shut down the president’s ability to get legislation passed that would guarantee health care for all. “Too expensive. Communist.”
Old fears were not old, they were and are still alive and well, hiding in the system. 2020 and COVID 19, a worldwide pandemic began to lift the veil of oppression that kept an economic system alive and well, mostly benefiting the rich. Slavery under a different guise. And not only people of colour and minority groups. All of us slaves to the system. Until it became apparent it was not working for all. Not even for many. It had gotten out of control. And the death of another black man, blatant, on camera, 9 minutes of smug pressure on George Floyds neck as he was saying, “I Can’t Breathe”.
Very quickly we became aware that these words were our words. Those who seek equality and justice. We can’t breathe. We can’t breathe in this system of oppression and violence. Not just oppressed people (indigenous people, blacks, minority groups, poor people) but many of us privileged people–white people of privilege–woke up to the fact that the time has come, the opportunity is here to right the wrongs, expose the racism, and change the world.
Powerful voices. Young voices. And some Christian voices. At a Spiritual Nurture meeting Monday night, they showed a 23-minute sermon, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, by Rev. Otis Moss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6985UG0Z3k&feature=youtu.be My reaction was, “The white church is so tame.” Where is our passion? Where is the Spirit? We are in the season of the Spirit. I am involved in three groups at the church and they are all about connecting with God, each other and our soul. I get it. We need to find the voice of the Spirit speaking in our heart. But we seem to be blind and deaf. The voice is loud and clear. The agenda is obvious. But we struggle to see and hear. Who said that 2000 years ago? Most of us white people at Spiritual Nurture Monday night were at a loss as to how we can be involved. What can we do? Wake up now. Listen now. Act now.
Another Pentecost sermon (https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishop-michael-currys-pentecost-sermon-live-streamed-service) by Bishop Michael Curry at the Washington National Cathedral was about the pandemic of selfishness that has infected human nature. In the Bishop’s words, “…this pandemic is not of the viral kind, but of the spiritual kind. It is a pandemic of the human spirit, when our lives are focused on ourselves, when the self becomes the center of the world and of the universe. It is a pandemic of self-centeredness. And it may be even more destructive than a virus. This pandemic of self-centeredness, if you will, has been the root cause of every humanly created evil that has ever hurt or harmed any child of God or even the earth itself.”
Will we have a sustained response to address inequality this time? Can we open that door all the way to freedom and equality? There is a new energy. There already has been a quick response with local governments promising reform for the police system. But what about an attitude adjustment for all of us? Repentance for our own self-centeredness? In the first civil rights movement it was necessary for white people to march and act along side black brothers and sisters to get things done. White lives also matter here, not in opposition to black lives but in support of black lives–in support of indigenous lives. We need to share our world and use our power to invite others into our privileged world. We can do this.
That’s what I was thinking at 5:15 this morning. Now I have said it out loud. But I can’t go back to sleep. There is another day and it is not all about me. The power of the universe knows my name. Your name too. And gives us a song to sing, a task to do, a call to fulfill. The Spirit is moving, and we let it move us.
This is not a victory dance. This is going to be a long and unpleasant experience, but we are not alone. We do not have to be alone.