Churches are burning.
Did you realize that? Have you heard about it? Seven historically African-American churches have been burned in recent days. This is in addition to the nine people brutally murdered by a hateful, ignorant man. Thankfully, there have been no additional deaths or major injuries, but that’s not the point. These churches are gathering places, safe places, places where communities come together. And they are being burned down.
The Church Arson Prevention Act, passed in 1990, makes burning a place of worship a Federal crime. Yet, have we seen or heard about these outside of social networks? The media is woefully silent, and certainly cannot be counted upon to give any kind of in-depth coverage to this sudden surge of violence (and it IS violence).
So what? I’m white, male, and privileged. Why should I care? I should care precisely because I happen to be white, male, and privileged – for every moment I refuse to speak up against these crimes is one more moment that I condone them with my silence. This is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the bilious talking heads on TV wax eloquent about how systemic racism no longer exists. It exists as long as we sit idly by and ignore when hate affects our brothers and sisters. And why it affects them.
This is not an issue that should be ignored, it should not be swept under the media’s rug, and it should not be minimized. I have absolutely no idea what it must feel like to wake up every day knowing, KNOWING, that you will face hate and discrimination today, tomorrow, and every day, not because you deserve it, not because of anything you have done, just because. Hatred is the “anti-grace”, given freely, but only to cause pain, anguish, and despair.
I have seen ignorance splashed across the news, in-depth coverage of protests to keep a symbol of hatred and treason out in the open, where it can continue to do the greatest damage. Ignorance and hate do not deserve “equal” time. They deserve no time at all. Instead, we should focus on the many people gathering to rebuild together. But, like every positive thing that truly makes a difference, it makes much less compelling soundbites than ignorance and hate. It requires depth, and emotion, and a willingness to connect instead of disconnect. When we see the ignorant racist on TV, it is easy to distane ourselves and say, “That’s not me.” But it is. We allow it to keep happening over and over. We feel sad, and say, “That’s terrible”, and go on. Meanwhile, someone in Greeleyville, or Charleston, or Minneapolis, or Chicago, or everywhere, worries what they will have to face today. What disrespect must they swallow? What violence will they encounter? They live the struggle everyday.
I am not here to save anyone, I am not a white (literallly) knight come to deliver anyone from anything. I support those who struggle, even though I will can never truly understand their struggle. Now, I promise to live my support. I pledge to speak out when I hear or see anyone disparaged or discriminated against simply based on who they are or how they look. I pledge to speak out when the media neglects stories because they aren’t about white people. As a Christian living in an overwhelmingly white community, I pledge to reach out to my neighbors of color, my neighbors who are immigrants, my neighbors who are potential friends, and invite them and include them as a vital part of our city.
It’s a small pledge. I pray I am up to the task. I pray you join me.
My post was inspired by this post, especially the following quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: