How do I, as a white woman, respond to the deaths of George Floyd and all the other young people of color who have been killed by law enforcement?
I cannot walk in their same shoes, no matter how much I am angered, discouraged and outraged with these acts of violence. Why? For the obvious reason: I am the recipient of white privilege — something that was given to me at birth, something that I did not earn, something that I did not apply for, something that I did not knowingly understand until much later in life.
Oh, it is not that white people are bad because of this, but the continued idea that this does not exist in our country only furthers the pain and despair of the people of color in this United States of America.
The anger, frustration and violence that we all see on the various news media outlets did not just happen because of the brutal killing of George Floyd. It is the accumulation of racism and bigotry that has pervaded our society since that first ship brought shackled men, women and children to this land. Time and time again there have been efforts to undo this evil, but time and time again the vestiges of this kind of hatred return.
This is an insipid hatred because it disguises itself in so very many different ways. Racism can hide underneath badges, within the legal system, under health care, behind the pulpits and in so many other places.
Our country is in deep trouble right now. Fighting COVID-19 and all the ramifications that come from that and the heinous actions of a few who further the cause of injustice and violence against the black community. It may seem hopeless. It may seem insurmountable. That is the coward’s response, however.
It is going to take all of us to undo these behaviors and reclaim our motto of “justice and freedom for all.” The coronavirus will be defeated in time, but it is going to take all of us to follow safe practices to ensure the diminishing of the pandemic until the scientists can produce a vaccine. The other pandemic of racism has to be stopped by taking real actions with our governance in local, state and federal agencies. Changes have to be implemented sooner than later. We have had over 400 years to get this right.
As a retired priest in the Episcopal Church, I firmly believe that all are entitled to fair and equitable treatment in terms of moral and legal actions. The touchstone in our church comes from our Baptismal Covenant when we affirm the following: To “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.”
I believe that this is something that all people in our country can follow, regardless of religion or Christian denomination. There is hope when we all pull together.
The Rev. Mary Sheridan Janda
The Rev. Mary Sheridan Janda, Sandy, is a retired priest of The Episcopal Diocese of Utah. Views expressed here are her own and not necessarily those of the diocese.
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