Black lives matter.
I was following a 'string' (I think that's what they call them) of comments on an article from the Huffington Post about the unseemly events of police violence toward Black folks.
I grew up in the southernmost county of West Virginia that was, at that time 50% Black. Many of the older Black people called me "Mr. Jimmy"--something I didn't realize was wrong until I was in my late teens. It's just the way it was. And that's the problem--'just the way it was' is wrong, wrong, wrong.
I only went to school with 5 Black students. In 1964-65 Gary District High School (the Black School) sent over three male athletes and two brilliant girl students because the next year (65-66) would be the year all the schools in the county would be merged. They wanted to break down the walls. The two basketball players were the two top scorers on the Gary Team. The football player would have made All-State as a Tackle if he hadn't used his helmet to hit an referee after a bad call and gotten thrown off the team. The two girls finished 4 and 5 in our class, I think. (I was # 1 of course!!!)
I had a friend in college who was Black and went to Gary District while I want to Gary High. His name was Ron Wilkerson. He used to tell his friends, when he introduced me, "Jim and I went to different high schools together."
So, my formative years were in as segregated a world as the deep South.
Then the first parish I served--St. James in Charleston, WV--was a Black congregation. Upper middle class folks, for the most part--highly educated and many of them associated with the historically Black college, West Virginia State. St. Paul's in New Haven was fully integrated with both upper middle class and not so upper middle class Blacks. St. John's in Waterbury had many Blacks and a lot of West Indian folks--Blacks with an accent. Plus a huge Hispanic congregation.
When I first started working in the Cluster, very part time, my bishop asked me what was different for me. And I said, truthfully, "Ian, I'm not used to being around so many white people."
I'm certainly around a lot of white people in Cheshire, CT. And one thing I know is this: when I see someone pulled over by the police on the road in Cheshire, they are more often than not, Black or Brown.
Institutional and Societal Racism is real and here and among us.
To be white in this society is a foot up. To be white and male is to be able to be 'on the top'.
It has to stop.
I wrote a long response to the responses on the article about 'Black Lives Matter' and then realized I had to be on Facebook (God forbid!) to post it.
So, I've written it here.
Until America has an honest and meaningful and transformative conversation that makes a difference about race, we will be hobbling along, not aware of what is wrong with our culture.
The conversation in the political space is horrifying. Nevermind that Black and White isn't center stage, the hostility to immigrants is astonishing.
Land of the Free and Home of the Brave??? I think not.
"Send me your huddled masses hoping to be free???" I think not.
We have lots of work to do to even begin to live up to who we think we are as Americans.
The Season of Light is the time to do that work. The light is coming--little by little--let us make the most of it.
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