You have been lied to. I have been lied to. We’ve all been lied to by a system that is oppressive and wants things to stay the same way they’ve always been.
In the last few weeks, I’ve learned more about the darkest parts of American history than I ever did in 12 years of public schooling. I’ve also learned about the incredibly vibrant history BIPOC persons have brought to this country. I’ve learned about the way this has been changed, hidden, and retold. I’ve learned about how our violent history and list of crimes has lasted much longer and is much longer than Germany’s WWII era of violence. That’s a shocking thing to read, huh? These United States, our history and our reaction to our history (more specifically), is worse than that of Germany’s, and we’ve done a lot of the same stuff as them.
I was watching a talk from Bryan Stevenson (the author of Just Mercy and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative) where he mentioned that Germany is very public about the sins of their government and systems. Their reparations are very public, their recognition of the wrongs persisted against many people in their society is widely acknowledged, not just in Germany, but throughout the world. Extended, accepted, public violence and dehumanization against any group of people by any other group of people demands reparations that are extensive, difficult, and actually make a long-term, tangible difference in said society. It is a means of repentance and repair that includes, but is certainly not limited to, changing what we teach in schools and changing who students see in the main narrative of history.
While Germany has addressed concentration camps and their mass genocide, the US still has human beings living in literal cages, lynching happening in the present day, systems to support the historical and current oppressors (Breonna Taylor’s murderers, who are all police officers, are still walking around free), and a massively ignorant population that has no understanding of the history of their own country.
The Fourth of July is in 2 days. I have always loved the Fourth—I love fireworks, family barbeques, parades, and concerts. But my deep love of this day is rooted in misunderstanding and a lack of education about the way my fellow citizens of color were being treated on this same day. Maybe it’s a day to celebrate freedom for some—a historic day, if nothing else—but if we really believe that no one is free until all are free, let us treat this holiday as a day to educate, reflect, and turn attention to our Black brothers and sisters who weren’t even considered human beings on this day nearly 2 ½ centuries ago. Let us not be proud of our country, but let us love our country enough to fight for change at the very core of it. Would Saturday be not a day to look at all we’ve done but to continue fighting for all that we need to do.
There is so much learning to be done. So much repair that must take place. So much repentance, much reparations. And it will be uncomfortable, but imagine how uncomfortable slavery was. Imagine how uncomfortable getting pulled over for no reason and fearing for your life is. Imagine how uncomfortable being followed and threatened is. Imagine how uncomfortable not having a police force that backs you up is. Imagine how uncomfortable constantly being seen as a threat is.
And then check how uncomfortable learning is compared to all that—how uncomfortable is making reparations compared to slavery?
There is change that must happen or everything will stay the same it’s been for hundreds of years.
“Slavery didn’t end in 1865, it just evolved. It turned into decades of terrorism, lynching, and violence.” (Bryan Stevenson)
You may decide this is all too hard for you. (And I’m not saying to exhaust yourself learning and advocating, be healthy about it and don’t try to do everything all at once—seek out resources for how to be a healthy advocate and process all the information you are learning in a healthy way!) That working to heal the racial divide and advocate for justice is just too overwhelming. And you may decide to not say a word. To continue on with your life as if nothing should change. Your life will not change anymore. Everything will stay the same for you—growth will stop, your ability to Love will diminish, your contentment in life will fall away, Peace will become a dream, and Hope will walk away altogether. I don’t say this to make you feel guilty or frighten you but because it is the truth. Growth stops when we are blatantly presented with an injustice we are called to address and we refuse to take any action on account of our own general comfortability .
The Gospel without pursuing Justice is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To pursue Justice is to pursue Kingdom Things. To ignore injustice and to believe there is nothing to be corrected in our own hearts is to diminish the Kingdom to good feelings and happy stories. The serious business of Heaven is Joy and Joy is only found in the pursuit of God’s call to communion with Him and those around us. To Love God and Love our neighbor is to pursue Justice. To Love your neighbor is to fight for their humanity. To Love your neighbor is to intervene when they are being beaten. To Love your neighbor is to take seriously the harm they have experienced. To Love your neighbor is to listen and then to act. You cannot Love your neighbor sitting comfortably in your own home and pretending like no one around you is suffering.
Let us seek Justice, and in seeking Justice, find Jesus, and in finding Jesus, bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth right now.