After much discernment and soul searching I have decided to invite you to come for a walk with me.
As a runner finishes her race she does not stop at the finish line abruptly, rather she starts jogging and then slows it down to a walk so she can recover. I am in this recovery phase right now, slowing it down a bit and doing some heavy thinking.
As the effects of the Pandemic lessen, I am just beginning to get a little busy again. I have a few events popping up on my calendar. I am sure you do too. Before we rush back into our old lives, our old habits, I wonder if you will take a look at your life, as I am looking at mine, and see what we need to do, collectively, to effect some much needed change. How can we, in our daily life choices, ease the burdens of those around us?
As White women and men, we can no longer afford to tolerate racism of any kind in our homes, or anywhere that is our circle of influence. We need to pull our family and friends with us as we make room at the table for everyone.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” These are wise words from Gandalf the Grey, and they are applicable to us. Frodo hears these words as he steps out into the greatest, most perilous journey of his life. In this day, in our time, talking about race is like lighting a powder keg and not stepping away.
If we are to journey to Mordor and throw the ring of racism into the great fire there, we need to have the courage to get on the road.
And it starts by looking within ourselves.
We Catholics have a term for this kind of personal reckoning. We call it an, “examination of conscience.” We sift through our day to day or month to month thoughts, words and actions and hold them against the Ten Commandments and the teachings of our church and we asses where we have fallen short.
I suggest that the first step on our dangerous walk would be to peer inside ourselves and see where we have fallen short in the way of treating our sisters and brothers of color as we do ourselves.
I will freely, and ashamedly admit that there are things I said and did while growing up in Indiana that are admittedly racist. I was insensitive and marginalized those who did not look like me, just as my peers around me did. One of my grandfathers regularly used derogatory terms to speak of Black people. I heard them used frequently in casual conversation. Like many Americans I did not grow up in a culture of tolerance.
Even as an adult I have had a gradual awakening to the suffering of those around me, made possible by my silence, by my looking the other way instead of jumping in to defend. I have tolerated racist speech in those around me and allowed racist attitudes to be perpetuated because I did not want to rock the proverbial boat with family or friends or even school administrators.
Those days are over. I feel a press from something outside of myself to admit where I have been wrong and to do better. I think everyone deserves a chance to enjoy a peaceful, safe existence. In our country, as things stand today, this justice does not exist. We must work for it, together and it starts by my introspection and by yours.
This is not an easy or comfortable process. An examination of conscience is painful at times and to admit wrongdoing is to squirm in your seat.
I think we are up to this task, all of us. We are strong enough to look at our words and actions critically and admit where we need to do better.
Come and take a walk with me, who knows where we may be swept off to!