Racism Needs A Vaccine

Thursday, 4 June 2020, 20:15 | Category : Building Bridges of Hope to End Racism
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By Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune

As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough, this week the President of the United States co-opted sacred space for political antics and partisan pandering while jeopardizing lives and using the military as props in an ongoing drama that has turned into America’s nightmare. On Monday, military police were asked to unleash tear gas, rubber bullets and other weaponry on peaceful protesters at Lafayette Park across from the White House—an undeniable show of force all for the President to pose for a photo-op in front of a church, Bible in hand. It was an outrageous scene—unequivocally not Christian. All Christians should hold the President accountable for gratuitously violating sacred Christian symbols for political gain.

I imagine that Jesus was turn-the-tables-over-in-the-temple angry at what transpired in front of St. John’s Church. A church. The place where there is sanctuary from the burdens of the world. The place where we find peace and refuge for our troubled souls. The place where we rejoice and give thanks, marry and nurture children in the faith and say our last goodbyes to loved ones. Churches are not meant to be used for political grandstanding in response to protesters demanding justice for an unarmed, handcuffed Black man whose life was snuffed out by those sworn to protect and serve.

My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13). Those are the words of Jesus. Found in the Bible that was on display but not being honored. You see, George Floyd’s life was stolen from him, a church was robbed of its sacred space, and God’s people were robbed of their dignity and right to stand up and speak out. The sanctity of the lives of the protesters was callously disregarded for a publicity stunt gone wrong.

How will we recover from this?

At a moment in our nation’s history when there is a desperate need for leadership and healing, the person with the title and position most able to deliver both instead decides to further divide us while putting Americans in harm’s way and defiling sacred space. Surely, we have reached a new low where there is no bottom.

Sadly, that is not all. Amid the global crisis of COVID-19 is a parallel and equally deadly pandemic—racism. While we were equipping ourselves with masks and gloves, socially distancing and washing our hands profusely to ward off the coronavirus, we never properly geared up for another round of racial incidents. And, now our nation is at a tipping point.

In the past few months, the coronavirus has wreaked havoc claiming more than 105,000 lives and literally suffocating the people of color most affected by it. Racism has had a stranglehold on this nation, inflicting pain and suffering on millions of African Americans and hindering them from living for hundreds of years. As we take an inventory of racial hatred and discrimination in this country, we have to conclude that America is the host of a virus called racism and it can be found in every cell in the body that makes up American systems. Whether it’s the disparities found in the global health crisis or in trying to go about every day normal activities such as jogging or sleeping in one’s own bed, or in daily interactions with police and their self-appointed surrogates, racism and white supremacy intubate the lives of Black people in our nation. No, we cannot breathe.

How do we recover from this?

The disparities revealed in the health crisis, economic uncertainty, and the frustration from sheltering-in-place, followed by several high profile senseless deaths of African Americans—Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd—has spilled over into the streets and landed us where we now find ourselves.  We are a nation devoid of leadership left watching social upheaval unfold like nothing we’ve seen in generations. Apparently, this moment has also given license for some to debase that which is sacred and holy. We are teetering on the edge of imploding.

Our nation’s irreverence and disregard for Black lives, for human life, cannot be tolerated. Let’s find a vaccine for that.

How do we recover from this?

We recover by registering and voting in November and in every election from this point on. We recover by voting in new leadership for our country. We recover by holding our elected leaders accountable. We recover by staying engaged on the local, state, and national levels. We recover by running for office and supporting others of like mind who do the same. We recover by lifting our voices for justice and doing the hard work to end racism. We recover by holding one another accountable to being anti-racists. This will be our vaccine and we’ve been waiting for it for a long time.

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“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5

When You Don’t Know What to Say.

Monday, 1 June 2020, 18:26 | Category : Building Bridges of Hope to End Racism
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When You Don’t Know What to Say

Sometimes words fail us in our attempts to communicate what we are experiencing, articulate our emotions, or to express our deepest feelings. The circular nature of the “scientific conversations” begs for a clearer connection to what is happening in each of our lives at the moment. Life and death issues from COVID 19 to harsh reminders that racism is still alive as yet another unarmed black man, George Floyd, loses his life at the hands, or more accurately stated, by the knee of a white police officer. Sometimes I am speechless.

These are traumatic times. Yes, I pray. Yes, I have faith in God. Yes, I know someday we will look back and understand it better. I have challenged myself to stay mentally engaged and try to find the right words to say to fight off the despair many people in my life are experiencing. I have found encouragement in these words from Howard Thurman writing, ‘Give Me the Listening Ear” in his book Meditations of the Heart. I offer his words as a prayer for each of us as we make room for the sustaining grace of God to lead and guide us into a place of healing and hopefulness.

Dear God,

“Give me the listening ear. The eye that is willing to see.

Give me the listening ear. I seek this day the ear that will not shrink from the word that corrects and admonishes– the word that holds up before me the image of myself that causes me to pause and reconsider — the word that challenges me to pause and reconsider—the word that challenges me to deeper consecration and higher resolve – the word that lays bare the needs that make my own days uneasy, that seizes upon every good decent impulse of my nature, channeling it into paths of healing in the lives of others.

Give me the listening ear. I seek this day the disciplined mind, the disciplined heart, the disciplined life that makes my ear the focus of attention through which I may become mindful of expressions of life foreign to my own. I seek the stimulation that lifts me out of old ruts and established habits which keep me conscious of my self, my needs, my personal interests.

Give me this day – the eye that is willing to see the meaning of the ordinary, the familiar, the commonplace – the eye that is willing to see my own faults for what they are – the eye that is willing to see the likeable qualities in those I may not like – the mistake in what I thought was correct – the strength in what I had labeled as weakness. Give me the eye that is willing to see that Thou hast not left Thyself without a witness in every living thing. Thus to walk with reverence and sensitiveness through all the days of my life.

Give me the listening ear. The eye that is willing to see.”

Speak to me Lord. I am listening.

Amen

Classism and Racism Require Building Bridges of Hope

Grace and Race Ministries, Inc. invites you to join us for this critical conversation on race and class. Believers are commanded to love others as Christ loves us. Let’s discuss ways to be better informed and find ways to move forward building bridges of understanding and sharing hope in the midst of classism and racism in our society.

 

Not So Easily Broken: A Week On the Breaking Plantation

Monday, 22 July 2019, 19:49 | Category : Building Bridges of Hope to End Racism
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By Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune 

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There’s something especially cruel, horrific even, about a breaking plantation…as if slavery itself wasn’t cruel enough. You see, breaking plantations are where they sent the slaves who kept trying to run away. On the grounds of this one where I’ve spent the last week, is a sign: “Whipping Post & Magnolia Tree,” marking the space where the enslaved people were beaten into submission.

Or, so they thought.

Honestly, when I arrived, I looked around and texted a friend expressing my doubts about the place. I told her that I didn’t think I was going to be able to stay here for a week. The facilities are nice enough but there’s nothing around us, I texted. A city girl on a plantation is just not a good look.

And, the remnants are everywhere, it seems to me.

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The ground is unapologetic and unforgiving. It gives testimony to the bygone era and demands to be recognized. Cotton bursts through the ground and taunts me: Somebody’s gotta do some pickin’!

To which my soul shouts back, Our pickin’ days are over!

The resistance of my ancestors lives in me.

Looking out across the expansive plantation the trees are mostly around the perimeter with large open spaces. Nowhere to run. No way to escape. These are the thoughts that capture my attention. How would they get out of here?

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Then there is that tree. The tree that is stripped bare. No leaves. Split on one side. Stripped of so much that once hinted at its full majesty. This tree stands out to me. This tree is haunting me and pulling on my spirit, begging to be noticed, asking me to pay attention to it. Did a strike of lightning seal its fate? Or, was it something else? For some reason, I can’t help but wonder if someone was lynched here. Somehow, that’s what I see when I look at that tree. Letting me know that pain resides in its limbs and the blood of the slaughtered saturates its roots. But, still standing and commanding my attention.

Selah.

There is a rhythm to the day here. And, the train reminds me of it and helps me to mark time. The train elicits the same response from me time and time again. “FREEDOM” rings in my ears. It seems to get louder throughout the day. FREEDOM is just through the trees. FREEDOM is calling and beckoning me. FREEDOM, O, Freedom! Freedom, O, Freedom! FREEDOM is near!

Is this what they thought about as the lash of the whip tore their flesh? Is this what crossed their minds as they toiled bent over in the fields picking cotton? Is this what they prayed about as day turned to night and night turned to day?trail off the plantation

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You see, there’s no way this place quieted or quenched the resistance in the spirits of those they brought here. I just don’t believe it. Fire kept burning in them and found new ways of living, surviving and growing because the fire would not die and they were not so easily broken. I can imagine that each attempt to break them only reignited the fire even deeper in their souls. There is no breaking us! Freedom, like fire, is shut up in our bones! We are still here! We will not be broken. We. Will. Not. Be. Broken.

YES! I know this for sure. Because the resistance of my ancestors lives in me.

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Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune for allowing Grace and Race Ministries, Inc.  to share this thought-provoking reflection, which was originally posted on her blog Mondays At the Altar in May.

My Blindspot to Romans 13:1-7

Learning to read and study the Bible was an important step in my spiritual formation. My grandmother would tell me to memorize verses of scripture to serve as encouragement and guidance. She would say “you should always have the Word of God in your heart even when can’t have a Bible in your hand.”

I can remember some of the lessons I was taught about how to read and study the Bible: find a quiet time and place, take notes, (we didn’t dare write in the Bible), pray, read, reflect, and to respond to the question, “How can I apply this biblical narrative to my life?” I also learned about the potential danger of using a scripture to justify or promote my point of view.

I am aware of the context in which Romans 13 was written and I am also keenly aware of what crosses my mind when I read the words in verse 1-7 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God…” This text has been used in support of slavery and of unjust immigration policies resulting in children and parents being separated. When I must read Romans 13, I hasten to get to end the of the chapter to be reminded of what I believe to be true, even in our present context.

In the book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, the authors discuss a broad range of biases all of us have hidden in our brains. These hidden biases can show up to influence our relationships with people based on our exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality and more.

Today, I am acknowledging my religious bias, my blind spot, my personal preference for one interpretation of a text over another, based on my lived experiences as a Christian. The concluding verses of Romans 13:8-10 focus on the single most important commandment.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

The more I study the Word of God, the more I realize I have major blind spots, the more I thank God for His love, mercy, and grace.

Dear God, thank you for loving me in spite of my failures. Help me to recognize and address my biases, as I strive to honor Your clear and concise commandment to love my neighbors.