Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Thinking about Racism, Privilege, and Johnny Come Latelys

Every day, between 5-7 p.m. at the intersection of First Avenue and Business 30 in Coatesville, a small group of protesters stand with signs calling for change, solidarity, and affirmations that #blacklivesmatter. On a five-mile run this weekend, I passed by this particular placard and a group of about six. Despite their gracious invitation to join them, I could not stay; our family was quarantined until the test results came yesterday and confirmed we were and are COVID FREE. So, I supported their presence by remaining distant. 

The recent protests, marches, and public demonstrations are making some serious and rapid head way these days. I cannot help but think the Spirit is hovering over the chaos and bringing goodness and shalom out of the formless voids of the present struggle. I am not sure if the pandemic has forced many people of privilege finally to confront their complicity in systemic racism, but people are coming out in droves to affirm #blacklivesmatter and to call for far more than mere police reform. They are- we are- looking for much more. [Check out this article on what #defundthepolice and #abolishthepolice really means

For many, this was a weekend of increased allyship. For some, it was the first step in their commitment to the work of anti-racism. Maybe they were buying into the latest social trend and a chance for a quick IG pic, but their presence echoed the mantras and affected positively the algorithms calling for justice.* Sure, there is a concern for what can be called "performative activism," and skepticism has just cause, missing the forrest for the trees may not be helpful either. So  whenever I have been tempted to question fellow people of privilege who are “Johnny Come Lately,” I cannot help but also hear Jesus’ response to his disciples' cynicism about outsiders joining their exorcisms, "Whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40). 

Under quarantine, I thought a lot about and watched virtually the steady streams and images from protests and marches from large cities to small towns. My heart, mind, and conscience were deeply moved.  Then I ran by and briefly engaged the few at the corner. They have been there before and will be after the weekend buzz. They recognize this is more than a moment but a movement. They know that systemic racism is a problem and epidemic in America the brutiful. Period. Full stop. 

The generational manifestations of structural biases and racial injustices will not be deconstructed in a single weekend or by any isolated social media post, certainly to include this one. The dismantling of America’s original sin of racism that pervades law enforcement and politics, corporations and religious institutions, quality of education and access to nutritional food, basic healthcare, sustainable employment, affordable housing, green spaces, and recreational facilities, etc. will take all of us for much longer than a day or two. 

But these days matter so much, still. They matter as much as the Black and Brown lives that are the focus and leaders of this movement. 

So join the cause in whatever way you can, large or small, aware our collective efforts are required this day and every day, on this street corner and in every community near and far.