Thursday, August 13, 2020

An Email

(I took this from an email I wrote.It explains my commitment to Black Lives Matter.)

I grew up in the only county in the US, outside the deep south, that was almost 50/50 Black and White. I knew only a few adult blacks and none of their children. The adults called me "Mister Jimmy". I only realized years later that it was probably meant derogatorily. I just grew up thinking it was the way things were. My father--not my mother---was a quiet racist. In his many jobs he served lots of Black customers, but when he came to my first Church, St. James in Charleston, WV, as I was showing him around he said, "It doesn't smell like I expected." I never went to school with Black students until my Senior Year of high School. The Black High School had sent over 3 male athletes and 3 smart girls to pave the way since the next year, the schools would merge. (Which meant that all over the county the Black Schools would close in disrepair and the Blacks would come to the better kept white schools). I became close friends with a student from the Black School when we were in college. He would introduce me to his friends by saying, "we went to different high schools together."

Since college I have done all I could for the Civil Rights Movement. During seminary I walked in marches. Since then I've given money to Civil rights groups. My childhood taught me how terrible and limiting segregation had been.

As a young priest, I went to St. James in Charleston, a black parish. With so few black Episcopal priests, St. James couldn't afford them. For five years they educated me in what it was like to be Black in America. The Senior Warden, a man who served in the army and went to the level of Colonel, showed me the turban he wore traveling through the South. He was light skinned and wearing the turban meant he could get a room in a hotel. Disgraceful that he had to do that. Most of the members of St. James worked or taught at a local previously all--Black college. It was the most educated congregation I ever served, yet they faced discrimination daily. It outraged me.

The other two churches I served--St. Paul's in New Haven and St. John's in Waterbury--both had large minority groups. An important member of the Cluster was baptized at St. Paul's (not by me) but members of his extended family were there when I was. St. John's had a huge extended family of Island Blacks. I would always wait for the moment when a seminarian would ask me why so many of the Black people sat together. I would say, "what if they all had red hair and freckles?" Then they'd get it. That family, all dressed almost formally for church. The little girls wore gloves and hats. The little boys, suits and ties. That family, almost 50 people, took me in and made me an Island White with food and drinks and jokes about the Islands.

So, as you can see, my entire full time ministry was surrounded by people of color--including a Hispanic congregation in Waterbury of over 100 which required a Spanish speaking assistant.

Given my segregationist upbringing, my commitment to civil rights is bone deep.

I hope you can understand why I come from where I do about Black Lives Matter.

 (The opinions here are mine and mine alone.)

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.