When confronted with the brutal truth that some lives haven’t mattered as much as other lives in our own estimation, in our own institutions, in our own city of San Pedro, and in our own nation, we are left with a couple of options.
We can make excuses. “Almost all societies have tolerated bigotry and racism.” “America is not unique in her participation in the slave trade.” “We did have a Black president for eight whole years.” We can blame. “That was a previous generation’s problem.” “My ancestors didn’t own slaves.” We can deny. “I worked hard to get where I am. Don’t tell me about white privilege.” We can compare. “We weren’t as racist as that other group.” “We are the party of Lincoln—we are the heroes in this story.” “We are the progressive party of civil rights—we are the heroes in this story.” We can hyperfocus for a week and change our social media background to black and share the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and hope that time will heal that wound and we will get back to “normal” as soon as possible.
God replies, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6.14 NIV) Excuses, blame, denial, comparison, or temporary attention have not helped heal the racial wound reopened day after day in our neighborhoods and in our nation. Do you feel the call to something more profound?
As a Christian Caucasian man, I am pretty much the definition of the majority culture in America. My voice has been heard and empowered, and I have been overrepresented in halls of power in every generation of our nation’s history. It is not my turn to teach but to unlearn and learn. Not my turn to talk but to listen. Not my turn to call for repentance but to repent. Maybe that is where I can begin? Maybe some of you would join me?
After these 400 years, which mark the beginning of the slave trade to America:
Have mercy. (Search: 1619)
For the times when the American dream and the constitutional foundation securing it have been withheld from whole populations:
Have mercy. (Search: Condoleezza Rice American Creed)
For buying and selling, trading and enslaving, abusing and killing humans created in God’s image:
Have mercy. (Search: Harriet Tubman movie)
For vagrancy laws applied only to Black men, incarcerating them the day after their emancipation:
For Jim Crow laws, segregation and the Southern Manifesto:
For San Pedro’s history with the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy sins:
Have mercy. (Search: San Pedro Ku Klux Klan)
For inequitable homestead, Federal Housing Administration, redline and white-only deeds, and neighborhood covenants:
For “law and order” rhetoric serving as a cover for racist policy:
For responding to white drug use with compassion and rehabilitation while responding to Black drug use with disgust and incarceration:
Have mercy. (Search: Phil Vischer racism)
For grave inequities in criminal justice and in the application of the death penalty:
Have mercy. (Search: Equal Justice Institute or “Just Mercy”)
For the Church’s indirect complicity and direct racism in our city and nation:
For our excuses, blame, denial, justification through comparison, and short attention span as a substitute for a true and lasting commitment to racial justice:
Our cry for mercy is to you, God of every nation and people, and to our sisters and brothers to whom we have committed grave sins of commission and omission. We have said and done sinful things that we ought not to have said and done. We have been silent when we should have spoken.
Please forgive us for what we have done and for what we have left undone. spt