A Personal Witness on Racism
June 21, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection—A Personal Witness on Racism
The Holy Hour for Healing and Racial Justice on Friday evening began with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament while we sang, “O Salutaris.” After settling into our pews, we heard the prophet Isaiah looking forward to that glorious day when
the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them
We heard Jesus tell the story about the Samaritan who came to the aid of a Jewish traveler. He had been stripped and beaten and left half-dead by robbers. The Samaritan tended his wounds and nursed him, giving the innkeeper two silver coins to take care of him and promising to repay him if he spent more. Jesus commanded, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).
We heard a long-time member of Nativity parish, Dianne Kramer, reflect on her awareness of racial injustice in the light of faith. Her reflection follows:
“Early in my faith journey, I was told that a faith-filled life required a balance of prayer, study, and action. Study being a search for understanding and the combination of prayer and study, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be the foundation for action. Through these past few weeks, I have relied on that basis of my faith to do my best to deal with all that we are currently confronting.
“Through prayer I turned to study – to try to understand the injustice, the racism, and the anger. I thought about my tour of a plantation in South Carolina. We toured the slave quarters and the docent told us how the owner wanted to raise rice, but didn’t know how. So he sent a ship to Africa and stole black people who knew how to raise the crops he wanted. The docent cried as she explained how the enslaved people lived and how the owner sold their children to other plantation owners.
“I remembered reading
The Warmth of Other Suns
[by Isabel Wilkerson] about the great migration from 1915 through the end of the 1960’s of black people from the south to New York, Chicago, and California. I particularly remember the true story of a black doctor who migrated from Louisiana to California and had no place to spend the night on that days’ long car ride.
“I re-read an interview that a childhood friend sent me almost ten years ago. The interview was with Daphne Delk, the first black person to integrate the Marietta Georgia school system. I lived through that time, but had no real understanding of what she went through. Our community was totally segregated – black communities and white communities; black schools and white schools; black churches and white churches. In the mid 1960’s, the Justice Department started to enforce desegregation, although it proceeded slowly. The first step was to allow any black person who wanted to attend a white school to do so. Only Daphne chose to do that because she wanted a better education. The black schools only had throwaway books from the white schools. It was my sophomore year in high school when she came by herself.
“In the interview she recounted how students would step aside when she walked down the halls and that there were undercover police at the school to protect her. Over 40 years later she still remembered by name the teachers and student who treated her as an equal. She was not there to make a statement. She only wanted the education that my friends and I took for granted. I had no idea how much she went through – how hard it was for her to explain her choice to her community and how hard it was for her to fit into the white high school community. She explained that she just kept her focus on the education that she wanted.
“I have thought about how I was raised in the south. My mother never considered herself to be a racist, but she told me that black women were not “ladies”. She was kind to black people, but never considered them equals. They should remember “their place”. Unfortunately, these attitudes and beliefs are not gone. I like to think that my gift of faith and God’s grace led me in a different direction.
“I believe it is important to remember the history and try our best to understand what the black race has been through and what we, as whites, have never had to endure because of the color of our skin. I continue to study – to read, watch films and documentaries, and as a small action, I have made my children and grandchildren read that interview so that they know what went on and how important small individual actions and attitudes can be. Just as I was oblivious to what was really going on in my high school years, I believe we still don’t have a full understanding of racism in our world today – but we can change that. I may have been blind to the impact of injustice 50 years ago, but I do not want to repeat that in 2020.
“We start here with prayer, and I hope we can continue with study, listening, understanding, and then action.
“I am reminded of the words of the prophet Micah who spoke against injustice and exploitation of the poor. He advised that we should act with justice; love compassionately; and walk humbly with God.“
After Dianne gave her reflection, we made an examination of conscience and knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence before the Blessed Sacrament. While kneeling, the thought came to me that this was a matter of life and death. The time we spent kneeling was the time it took to kill a man.
We concluded the Holy Hour with Benediction while we sang “Tantum Ergo” and the Divine Praises, “Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name….” We could praise God because that day that Isaiah had longed for has come. That Samaritan who bound up the wounds of the traveler has come. Christ has come to take away the sins of the world. He suffered and died for our sins, including the sin of racism, to set us free from slavery to sin. He freed us to live as sister and brother in Christ with one Father. For this reason we could sing, “Holy God, we praise thy name.”
Prayers and thoughts and song are necessary, of course, but not enough. As Dianne noted, prayer leads to study which leads to action. Our bishops wrote in 2018 a pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.”
We are forming study groups to read their pastoral letter using their four-part study guide. Let me know if you are interested. The bishops invite all people of faith to conversion. The process of praying through, reflecting upon, and acting upon the message of the pastoral letter is hard work, but it is work from which healing and hope happens. As the bishops write, “Finally, too often racism comes in the form of the sin of omission, when individuals, communities, and even churches remain silent and fail to act against racial injustice when it is encountered." All who seek to open wide their hearts through prayerful engagement with this pastoral letter are invited to pray, listen, study, reflect, and respond.
Returning to Church
Nativity Longwood .
on Sunday, June 21 at 11:00AM