Dear MCC members and friends,
When the Ferguson decision came down, we released an “Epistle to America” challenging every person of good will to start looking directly at the inequities in the economic and legal systems that impact people of color in this country. We pray for the United States, and we grieve with the families.
The bottom line is that we are all impacted by racism, whether we realize it or not.
Paul’s pastoral letters to the early churches show us that, while he was always loving, he was not always gentle. He prayed for the believers and reminded them of the riches of God’s love. Still, he was forthright as he exhorted them to move beyond the cultural pitfalls of giving privilege to the rich while sending the poor away hungry from the table of Christ. He challenged believers to understand that freedom in Christ goes beyond slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile.
Today, our pastoral letter is filled with love for each and every person. Indeed, it is out of our love that we address the situation of race in the United States. We do so with full knowledge that the treatment of African immigrants in Europe is a pressing concern, that Afro-Brazilians still live under oppression, that Hispanic and Native people in the U.S. also face massive discrimination, and that divisions by race, gender, and class are realities in all of our settings. There are lessons on human rights to learn from each situation. Right now, the world is learning the lessons of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The primary lesson from recent events is that racism is still raising its ugly head and has morphed from one form to another through each generation. Within the United States, it has moved from slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to segregation, to rampant incarceration, to death by police. Young Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than young white men. Racism always marginalizes people of color and supports the ideology of white superiority and Black criminality. Racism is so suffused in dominant culture, it appears to be no one’s “fault” — just an accident of history. But when no one is responsible, we all must take responsibility. Racism will continue unless we stop it.
With an unspoken agenda of terror, racism kills just enough people to silence and subdue people of color who are trying to protect their families. Parents of African American sons teach them to put their hands in plain sight WHEN the police stop them. Children are often severely punished for disobedience in the family so they learn that obedience in public could save their lives. Girls learn quickly they need to be strong and ready to raise their family by themselves, since the men in the community are targets for economic deprivation, imprisonment, and death.
Everyone is vulnerable to the ideology that Black bodies do not matter and can be wasted by the police state. White police officers, as well as police officers of color, are caught in the system too. This is why national police associations have called for reforms. When policing becomes dangerous to communities, it is dangerous for the police as well.
Few whites have firsthand experience of the day-to-day racism that people of color deal with. The long stare, the stalking security guard, the demand for additional identification, the forgotten names, the apologies “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” the caricatures on television, the rejection for jobs, just to name a few.
Those of us who identify as LGBTQ know we come from all walks of life and all races; many of us have firsthand experience with people telling us we might as well die. We were told that HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment for who we are. Our people were dying in droves in the 1980s, and President Reagan did not even mention HIV/AIDS until his second term in office. Too many people — especially religious people — were indifferent to our suffering.
Of all people, we should understand. Bigotry kills.
There is no easy or quick answer to racism, in the U.S. or anywhere in the world. Once we address mass incarceration and police state murders, be assured that other systemic forms will surge forth. Fighting racism is as generational as racism itself. If you are a white person who chooses to stand with those who resist, be ready to make mistakes, make amends, and keep moving. If you are a person of color, you already know what bravery is required to live another day through the grace of God.
Today, as the spiritual leaders of MCC, we call on all members and friends of MCC to pray for the redemption of this evil called racism. If we stay in denial about racism, we will not find redemption. We need to begin to talk and act before we can heal this wound of the spirit that affects all of us. We are believers in Christ who offers freedom to all. Like the early Christians exhorted by Paul, we must come to a fuller understanding of freedom lived through a life of a loving God and our neighbor — not as in abstract otherworldly freedom but in the ways we live loving lives each day.
Right now, our sisters and brothers of African descent in MCC, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, the wider movement, and the world need our solidarity, our compassion, and our action. No one can walk away and pretend “this is not my issue.”
Start the healing. Pray together, talk together, work together. It is time for God’s realm to come.
- Take time to be in conversation and relationship. Share and listen. Really listen.
- Keep track of actions near you.
- Urge lawmakers to pass laws so police departments do not investigate their own crimes.
- Demand cameras on every police car and every police person, despite their limits.
- Prepare for a march on Washington — and satellite marches — on 13 December 2014.
- Work with your congregation and the faith community to be prayerful and prophetic, especially 11-14 December 2014.
These actions will not repair the damage of recent cases, but nationwide demands for change may lay the groundwork for cases of police brutality and murder to see the light of an actual courtroom, rather than be buried behind the closed doors of grand juries.
Be MCC! Be JUSTICE!
The Council of Elders of Metropolitan Community Churches:
Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Rev. Dr. Mona West, Rev. Hector Gutierrez, Rev. Darlene Garner