Today is my parents’ forty-ninth wedding anniversary. We gave them a quick call tonight in the chaotic moments before the pizza had finished baking. They moved to Memphis in 1971 just after they were married. My parents have both been leading churches, building community, and showing up even now into retirement. I was heartened to see a post of him with other Memphis faith leaders this week with so much happening in my hometown. Protests are continuing each day following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Even now as I type late this evening, I see live feed from some in Memphis about a car purposely driving into a crowd of teenage protesters.
Here in Columbia, MD, Tuesday was the Vigil and March for Black Lives organized and facilitated by students and activists. They asked that clergy leaders show up visibly. Just the night before peaceful protesters, including some of my colleagues, in were cleared with tear gas for the now infamous presidential photo op in front of a St. John’s Episcopal Church in D.C. These images were on my mind as I walked to the Columbia Mall with the buzz of media helicopters overhead.
It was strange to be out of the house so little over the course of three months and then to be circulating in a large crowd. I was impressed with the speed at which people snaked the parking lot, lining for the short walk over to the Lakefront. Thousands gathered, risking exposure in order to press home the importance of the message. People shouted the way forward: “No Justice, No Peace. No Racist Police.” “Black Lives Matter.” The masks added to starkness of the protest signs and words of George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.”
Prior to the Vigil, my daughter had helped me make signs. We had talked about the couple of protests that she has been to in her lifetime. After I put on my clergy collar and mask, I kissed my son and daughter and headed up our street on foot. Two men in a white pick-up sneered and laughed at me along my walk. It was strange walking the suburban streets wondering about my neighbors in these pandemic times. Would more people be funneling the walkways if we weren’t socially isolated?
I peer into my own anesthetized spirit and see what embers of Pentecost are inflamed. I pray the strength to do the work that is necessary by me and white people, the strength to carry the torch of my parents and their parents. Fall in line behind BlPOC leaders. As I think to the stretched energy and time that comes with pastoring and parenting in pandemic, how can I prioritize so that my anti-racism factors more centrally in my ministry and mothering? Sitting with this framework as I consider the stage of my white identity.
It’s not just about the several books I have long had stacked at my nightstand. It’s about making sure that decisions are lined with values. That I better know who the political operatives are in my County. That I understand better how the laws affect policing and the funding affects inequity in health care, housing, and education. That I occupy the lanes where I can affect change.
That I stay attentive in my conversation with congregants and community members as we talk white fragility, gradualism, and silence. That I restore and meditate.That I don’t allow the news cycle to pass with a reversion into tacit action. What are your lanes?
Post below by Lindsey Young on Twitter. Her poetry website here.