Like so many, I am heartbroken (again) over the killing of another young black man and that which has transpired since. According to Melissa Harris-Perry’s recent impassioned segment on MSNBC a white police officer has killed two black people every week from 2006 to 2013. Michael Brown’s killing is unacceptable–another unacceptable act in a long, long, long line of unacceptable acts towards God’s beloved children—a line which began the first time a person in power enslaved another human being.
Those of you who know me know that I am a privileged, white single-mother with two brown-skinned, teenaged sons for whose safety I fear each and every day. Despite the fact that my sons live in “middle-class” comfort and have access to an excellent education and just about everything they “want” – I know (and they live with the fact) that they could easily become a statistic because of institutional racism and the racial profiling that is inherent in their lives.
Like every parent of a black or brown child in America – I weep through the conversations I have with my sons about how they must behave in public and what they should and should not do if they are stopped by a police officer, or challenged by a school official, or called out with a racial slur by a passerby (yes it still happens). I have never allowed them to go to school without a collared shirt and they can’t wear hoodies and I remind them that they will be the first one people will “see as a problem” if there is a group of kids hanging-out. We talk about their needing to be overly respectful with others and soft spoken and gentle when it comes to dating. I have held their hearts when rejection has surfaced—like a father who would not allow his daughter to date my son because of the color of his skin and or he was denied access to a social activity or a club in which he wanted to engage. And the worst part, the part I hate the most, is that they get it — they know that they must walk through their lives with an attitude of deference in order to remain safe.
Yesterday, I was grateful to be in attendance at an interfaith prayer/memorial service for Michael Brown, held at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton. My 14 year old son Aaron delivered the benediction. The service was organized by the Newton Clergy Association along with my pastor, the Rev. Brandon T. Crowley of Myrtle Baptist Church. It was a highly diverse gathering and the service was moving, healing, empowering and challenging. It was very well done and the best part happened when a white city councilor called out white folk to become allies, active in systemic change and stop being silent in the face of such injustice. Do we have a city official who would speak the truth so boldly? I know we have clergy who would!
You can likely tell that I am not willing to remain silent any more. I believe working for racial justice is something that God is expecting from me – but I am wondering if there are others among you who would like to join me in taking action in Medford in response to this moment and this long history of racial division and injustice?
The City of Medford and Mayor Michael McGlynn are hosting a community day on Sept 21 to honor and highlight the community’s cultural diversity; and I am delighted for it and my church is planning to participate – but it is designed to be a celebration. While it will surely teach us a bit about each other, and may get those in attendance from disparate cultures to connect, it will not get at the deeper issues.
Might we in the Medford faith communities try to have some “Sacred Conversations on Race”? Or maybe something else is being called forth. Should there be an interfaith prayer service in conjunction with the Medford Community Day from which we might begin to name the problem openly?
Friends, this is the work of the privileged, this is the work of the oppressors, this is the work of white people. We must be the change. Anyone interested in joining the transformation?
Wendy Miller Olapade – firstname.lastname@example.org