I am writing this on Thursday, May 7, 2020. On Thursdays, I wear black and participate in the World Council of Churches #thursdaysinblack campaign toward a world free of gender and sexual based violence. Today I'm reflecting on the intersection of this and race and guns. Today, this black I’m wearing feels so heavy. Today, the news is full of the story of yet another young black man gunned down in the streets. Today the image I can’t get out of my head is the face of Ahmaud Arbery's mother as she mourns the loss of her son.
Yesterday, I was on a call with leaders from the Ethnic Specific and Multicultural Ministry Team of my denomination, the ELCA. They spoke of the disproportionate impact of the Corona Virus on communities of color. They spoke of the fear the people of color have when making choices about wearing masks. Mothers of young men of color already have to face every day with fear, now they must wonder is my son safer with a mask or without one. As a white woman of privilege, I know how easy it would be for my peers to claim they were justified in “defending themselves” because the mere sight of a person of color wearing a mask caused them to fear for their safety. Today I can’t get the image of each mother’s fear for their sons of color out of my head.
Sisters, my sisters, white women of privilege, we have to step into this space and have a conversation. We have to be honest about the role our fear plays in this reality. When my daughter learned she would be serving in the Peace Corps in the country of Lesotho in southern Africa, we were so excited for her. At her college graduation a friend’s father asked “Aren’t you scared to send your beautiful (blonde, white) daughter over there?” The conversation ended abruptly when I responded that I had been more afraid for each of my beautiful daughters to be on college campuses in the United States facing the high incidence of sexual assault perpetrated by young white men of privilege than I was about their travel abroad.
Today my news feed is full of pictures of highly armored white men with assault weapons on the steps of capital building and I am full of fear. Today I grieve with my friend who lost her son to a gunshot. Where are we going with all of this? How can we begin to look at a weapon and see the faces of those whose life it may take, those faces made in the image of God?
Sisters, my sisters, scripture is full of references telling us to not be afraid. God knows that fear is the greatest tool of evil. We have to speak up and say this has to end. We have to be a part of the solution by learning, by listening to our siblings of color, by stepping into the shared grief of a mother who has lost a child. We have to confront our own fears of other and be honest. We have to teach our children that this is not OK.
We are God’s beloved, each one of us created in God’s image. They, no matter who we see as other, are God’s beloved, each of them created in God’s image. We are them and they are us. The only way forward is to be in this together.
Because You are Worth It!