I believe if I stood in front of a burning building and yelled “fire!” people would believe me because flames and smoke are evidence of fire. No one would argue with me or question me. “Are you sure that is a fire?”, “maybe you are imagining things.” I imagine people would pull out there cell phones to call 911 while courageous souls might try to run into the burning building to rescue anyone trapped inside. It is interesting to me that when characteristics of a situation, issue, or problem are familiar to a group of people then a response is mutually agreed upon, and a plan of action is determined. If the group is not familiar with the characteristics of a fire, it is possible that the person who says there is a fire is not believed because the other people do not understand the characteristics and attributes of a fire.
On a more serious note, the same problem exist with racism.
This week I attended clergy conference. The topic of the conference was “Unity in the Beloved Community: Striving for Dignity, Justice and Peace”. The majority of the conference focused on racism. Racism is alive and well. The Episcopal Diocese of Oregon continues to have conferences that focus on the issues of racism. There must be a reason for that. There must be a reason that dioceses throughout the country have commissions on racism, and conversations continue about white privilege and white fragility, and cultural biases.
I would guess that many of us have never experienced racism, and I would guess have never been exposed to the corrosiveness of cultural bias; micro-aggressions; racism; prejudge; implicit bias; offensive comments, and therefore it doesn’t exist. But it does, “fire!” When these harms are verbalized through truth telling many get defensive and offended when instead discerning the opportunity for dialogue and healing.
The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation and justice called the Becoming Beloved Community challenges us to 1) Telling the truth, 2) Proclaiming the Dream, 3) Repairing the Breach, and 4)Practicing the Way of Love. Please read more about this at www.episcopalchurch.org/beloved-community. St. John the Evangelist is already doing aspects of the Beloved Community, and there is much more work to be done. For racial healing, reconciliation and justice to occur, it requires vulnerability, honesty, courage, and reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide us. I believe it is not the time to say, “She is calling me a racist!”or to get angry and leave the church or to make me the source of the problem. On the contrary, true love is staying at the table and working our way through together.
If we truly claim to be a “welcoming” church, then we must spend the time to address issues of racism that hurt members of the body of Christ and those who are yet to experience the love of Christ.
“Fire! Fire! Fire!” As an African American woman from the South, I am experiencing racism. Do you believe me?