In these last few months, as we have struggled with COVID19, people across the world have experienced what it feels like to be constantly vigilant to threats. We have seen other people approaching and feeling ourselves worried that they could endanger us. We have been restricted in what we can do, where we can go, and who we can see. We have worried for the lives of our families and friends. We have felt economic hardship. We have felt the accumulated stress in our bodies, in our dreams, in our moods, and in our relationships.
Yet, this feeling of constant vigilance is only new for some of us. Many people of color have felt the stress of constant vigilance throughout their lives… Wondering if today they will have to withstand more dismissive, belittling, or degrading remarks. Wondering if their simple presence in a neighborhood will lead to a call to the police. Wondering if they will be stopped while doing something perfectly normal. Wondering if their interaction with law enforcement will leave them dead.
It all-too-often leads to death. Even when it does not, this vigilance takes a toll on the body, mind, and soul. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
– Todd Grotenhuis
We have been complicit in the continuation of racial divide. We have contributed to the pain of our Black and Brown sisters and brothers. We listen but we don’t hear. We name the need for change, but we don’t do the work. We contribute to the pain of generations by our assumptions, our trite words, our fragility and our privilege.
– Mary Liechty
I have lived most of my life in a white bubble. Learning about racial injustices always got me fired up in a cerebral way growing up, but I never felt it in the marrow of my bones on a daily basis. I never asked my friends of color how I could walk beside them or what their experiences might be like. I never sought out resources or educated myself on racial injustice in immediate, tangible ways. That time is over. I now strive to live my life and raise my family in an ANTI-RACIST fashion. This means using my voice, my resources, my social connections, my job, and my white privilege to NAME white supremacy and actively work to dismantle it. It is uncomfortable, overwhelming at times, and there is ALWAYS more to know. I am learning to embrace this discomfort, lick my privileged wounds, and move forward. Doing nothing, or just feeling sad, is no longer palatable.
– Carla Schmid
A call to action
If we at First Mennonite Church Indianapolis want to be Christ…ians, we need to teach what Jesus taught and model our lives after how Jesus lived his life. White supremacy and racism maintains that people of color are inferior to white people and don’t deserve to have equal roles, resources or opportunities in American society. This is the polar opposite of what Jesus taught when he was on earth. Jesus didn’t spend his time and energy trying to accumulate power and wealth; neither did he attempt to exert his will or control over others. Jesus taught that the last- the oppressed, the weak and the poor- shall be first, and the first- the powerful and the rich- shall be last. This suggests that not only did Jesus favor justice and equality for people of color, but that he favored positions of power for them. To walk in the path of Jesus, white Christians must be in the forefront of helping to create a societal structure in America that provides for an equal sharing of power, resources and opportunities with people of color. This is a challenge for white American Christians, as it is never easy to let go of power and resources you already have in your possession. Yet, this giving away, this giving up for the benefit of others, is the way of Christ, the way of the cross.
– Paul Hartman
May we learn to listen and be present with those who are speaking their stories, recognizing the complexity of each individual.
May we fully receive the anger, frustration and sadness that we must hear.
May we respond in ways that both amplify Black and Brown voices and challenge white voices when they excuse or deflect the daily violence perpetrated on people of color.
May we reject leaders who incite hatred through the language of violence.
May we recognize the trajectory of racial inequity in this country and beyond.
May we insist on systemic change.
May we own and name the bias in ourselves and speak it, every day.
In Jesus name.
– Mary Liechty