We’ve been observing to one another all week, from the greeting line in the narthex at St. John’s, to the now-demolished encampment in front of the governor’s mansion, to our idle conversations over the neighbor’s fence – this has been one hell of a week. Emphasis on the “hell”. First it was the tragic shooting of #AltonSterling in Baton Rouge and then #PhilandoCastile here in St. Paul and then what appeared to be retaliatory attacks in #Dallas and the shooting deaths of five police officers. There were protests and vigils actions all over the country and indeed around the world as folks everywhere showed up to demand changes in our policies and our culture. Sadly, we have seen over and again in the wider world that it isn’t always true that #alllivesmatter. So, many have picked up the slogan #BlackLivesMatter to give voice to the painful experience and unfair treatment of the black community in our cities and our nation.
In the midst of it all, I have heard within our St. John’s community and well-beyond it, the repetition of the question – “What can we do?” Sometimes, as the complexity and devastating reality of our world settles upon us like a dark cloud, that question can come out almost in resignation and despair. Other times, it can emerge as an urgent, even angry, declaration. Still, as the intensity of our emotions ebb once again, it emerges as a search for faithful and authentic lived response. Indeed, what can we do, and how can we sustain what we do, so that we do not flag in the cause of justice or shrink from the responsibility of our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every person?
Below I have compiled a summary of some basic ways each of us can get involved. While we cannot remain neutral, I also believe there are a myriad ways to respond faithfully to the issues of racism, violence, and injustice in our community. Here are just a few. I hope you will share more resources in the comments below or on the St. John’s Facebook page.
Resources for talking to children about racism:
Grow Christians has this fantastic blog explaining structural racism and includes a clever exercise using M&Ms. Grow Christians is a great resource for raising kids in the faith, in general. Worth a read.
The Leadership Conference curated a very straightforward list of common questions, responses, advice, and complimentary resources for addressing issues of racism and diversity.
The Washington Post ran an insightful op-ed last year around this time highlighting the urgency, particularly for white parents, to talk about racism and white privilege with their children. The author makes a compelling case that black parents are not afforded the luxury of avoiding these topics or their tragic effects. White parents should deal with their own discomfort and start the conversation now with their own children.
And then there’s this: 60 plus resources (mostly books) broken down by age appropriateness for parents to talk about race and racism with their kids.
Resources for churches and grown ups to talk about race and get involved in responding to it:
I found this blog post to be very encouraging – detailing how predominantly white churches can get involved in addressing racism – beyond praying.
If you are interested in policy, Campaign Zero is the largest aggregated policy proposal I could find broken down by state, national, and municipal legislation and policies and how you can effect change on issues of racial justice in the criminal justice system.
If you are still unsure that the criminal justice system and policing in general disproportionately effects black lives in our country and in our state, or if you are unconvinced that policing in our state needs some reforms, you may want to check out some of the following info, here, here, and here.
Several of our parishioners and neighboring churches have gotten involved by showing up to listen and lift their voices in the demonstrations. Our neighbors down the street closer to the Governor’s Mansion, St. Clements Episcopal Church, have been offering their space and their bathrooms as sanctuary to protesters and police. Parishioner and Episcopal priest, Neil Elliott was present and prayed with protesters recently. This picture was submitted by another parishioner present at the demonstration.
Certainly protest and civil disobedience have been and continue to be an effective tool in addressing injustice. There are prayer vigils and letter writing, and talking to your neighbors. Show up, stand up, speak up – and it never hurts to listen too.
You can pledge to confront racism whenever you see it. Record and document injustice with your camera phone when you see it happening.
You can get informed and spread the word about what you are learning.
Of course, you can serve directly – even at St. John’s – in a program or ministry that seeks to address the lasting impacts of poverty, homelessness, and hunger – issues that directly effect and place you contact with the black community. Consider working with Hearts to Homes, Fields to Families, Project Home, or our new refugee ministry. Talk to Craig Lemming about the work he’s doing with Circle of the Beloved in North Minneapolis and ask how you can get involved.
There are so many ways to be an agent of racial reconciliation, so many ways to stand against injustice – I hope you will be inspired to take action and to get involved.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that we have all been made one – that the old divisions that keep us separated and pit us as enemies have been broken down. As we sang last Sunday (quite felicitously), in Christ there is no East or West. Let’s make that spiritual truth a lived reality in our neighborhoods and community.
Blessings to all of you in the work of reconciliation.