Last week during the Thursday morning Bible study I picked up my phone to google a passage to share with the group (the one from Ephesians about being rooted and grounded in love and having the power to understand the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all understanding....) When I picked up my phone I saw that my son and husband had been texting back and forth on our family group chat – unusual enough in the middle of a school day that I took time right in the middle of Bible study to check in.
Someone was drawing swastikas all over the public high school Jacob attends, and he was pretty freaked out. The school’s response? They called in lots and lots of security guards and said NOT ONE WORD to students or parents. Not one word about keeping kids safe. Not one word inviting community dialogue and education. Not one word. About swastikas. In Hillsboro, Oregon, in 2017. My heart breaks with sadness, fear, and outrage.
My first, somewhat inane thought was, “why is there such a display of anti-Semitism in a school with such a small Jewish community.” It took me a moment to connect the dots. Our school has many, many students whose parents are the first generation in this country. There are families who came originally from Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, Kosovo, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan. There are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and unaffiliated students. I have always thought that was the beauty and strength of the school community. Someone in the community disagrees and wants everyone else to know it.
This got me thinking again about being white in America: What does the social construct of “whiteness” mean, and what benefits does it confer – whether we white folks recognize it or not? What wounds are inflicted on our spirits by being part of the group who benefits from an oppressive system?
In his introduction to “White Privilege: Let’s Talk,” UCC General Minister John Dorhauer wrote:
“The truth is, the mental and spiritual health of even the oppressors is badly affected by the work of supporting or maintaining systems of injustice. One of America’s lingering realities is the unprocessed grief, shame, fear, anger, and guilt of living in a culture of racial inequality. It is a heavy price we pay to maintain our silence in the face of such evil...”
This month, as part of our Lenten journey, you are invited to participate in this chapter of the UCC’s ongoing Sacred Conversation on race. Together we’ll consider the work of justice and the work of healing our own spiritual wounds as we seek to be rooted and grounded in love.