Last summer a confluence of events happened. I heard an interview with the author of Homegoing that made me want to read her novel about the history of the slave trade in Ghana and America. I learned of a Diocesan pilgrimage to Ghana. I was invited to a racial reconciliation discussion group in the community. And my Netflix queue brought up two movies in a row – Lee Daniel’s The Butler and Straight Outta Compton. As I read, watched, listened, and prayed, I wondered if God might be inviting me and our church community to talk more deeply about race.
So we did. We read Homegoing at our church and our discussions were vulnerable and beautiful. We went to a play in Colonial Williamsburg about the difficulty of serving as black and white interpreters in a time of slavery. We hosted an Anglican priest from Ghana, prayed for this year’s Ghanaian pilgrims, and encouraged parishioners to consider a pilgrimage themselves. We hosted a Bible Study with a predominantly African-American church. And we watched sports films that addressed racial relations. At some point this summer, about a year after my initial epiphany, I began to wonder if I were beating the same drum too often. Maybe race was a conversation we needed to give a rest.
And then the protests and counter-protests happened in Charlottesville. As I watched hatred, racism, and violence on full display, as I saw rage, indignation, and entitlement in protestors’ eyes, and as I watched peaceful resistance dissolve into violent resistance, I knew we were not done with this race topic. The scars are so deep and the impact is so rampant that we may never be done. But fatigue, especially by white people, is not an excuse to disengage. This week, I invite you to consider what you want to do in your life and in your community about racism. If you are looking for suggestions, I commend the concrete suggestions by the Diocese of Virginia found here.
For me, I am committing to staying involved in our local ecumenical racial reconciliation discussion group. I will keep inviting our church into race-related conversations, and encourage our exploration of our own complicity with the sin of racism. I will keep reading and learning. And I want to commit to going to Ghana with our Diocesan pilgrimage group. I am not sure our family can afford it (I guess you know what to get me for my birthday!), but I feel God pushing me to walk through those slave castles, to learn in-person our shared history, and see the impact of slavery on another country. I feel drawn to walking with fellow pilgrims of both white and black races, seeing how God might transform me on the journey. If you feel similarly called, please join us next summer. Or if you know you cannot make the pilgrimage, but want to financially support our engagement, I will help you become a partner with us. Whatever you choose, do something. I look forward to hearing about how God is calling you or how God is already using you for change.