[All Saints Episcopal Church]
What’s happening in Charlottesville is America.
It has always been America.
This ain’t new. – Brittany Ferrell
Last night and this morning, we have seen the images from Charlottesville.
Some evil is clear. The evil of race hatred. Of police standing by doing nothing while white nationalists attack nonviolent counter-protesters. Of a terrorist driving a car into a crowd of people marching for love and basic human rights.
When we see evil like this, we must name it, confront it, resist it and defeat it. If we do not, we should not pretend that we follow Jesús. And churches and supposed Christians who are silent at this moment are making a clear choice for hate over love, Empire over the Kin-dom of God and the false Gospel of white supremacy over the revolutionary love of Jesús.
I hope we all are deeply grateful for All Saints’ own Lauren Grubaugh and the hundreds of other people of faith who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend and quite literally put their lives on the line to stand up against evil.
And yet, it is not enough for us to admire her, to admire them. We must be just as willing to sacrifice in the fight against evil.
And we must be aware that as much as the White Nationalists in Charlottesville are deathly dangerous because of the boldness with which they express the evil that has infected their hearts. As much as their boldness must be met equally boldly with, as our brother the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou says, “deep, abiding, militant, nonviolent love.” We must be aware that there are two other dangers at least as powerful in this moment.
The first is that we look at the White nationalists spewing hate and committing abominations in Charlottesville and think that is all White supremacy looks like. That the sum total of our response is to pray, like the Pharisee, “Thank God I am not like these sinners.”
Because while some evil is clear, other evil is more subtle – unless you find yourself in its crosshairs. But our call to name, confront, resist and defeat it is no less binding.
For white supremacy is not only the man carrying the torch or weaponizing the car.
White supremacy is liquor counters instead of produce sections in neighborhoods of color.
White supremacy is needing school supply drives for black and brown children to have even the most basic materials they need for class.
White supremacy is people of color needing to put up GoFundMe pages to pay for funerals and therapy.
White supremacy is America selling fear to white people and power to people of color in the form of a gun.
White supremacy is all these things and more. And we must name them, confront them, resist them and defeat them.
Second, as Ferguson Freedom Fighter Brittany Ferrell reminds us:
This ain’t new.
If the images we have seen in the past 24 hours surprise us, it means we haven’t been paying attention. Our nation was founded on White supremacy. Growing up black or brown in this nation means and has always meant second-class citizenship at best and your life and your family’s lives being in danger of being taken away with impunity at worst.
Slavery became convict leasing and peonage and Jim Crow and mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline. Lynching never stopped, we just found different things to call it and different ways to do it. We kill our siblings of color quickly with guns and drugs and we kill our siblings of color slowly with inferior education, nutrition, health care, security, economic opportunity, with poverties of goods, services, wealth and hope.
This ain’t new. All that has happened this weekend is people standing up with disturbing boldness and saying what life in this nation has said to our siblings of color all along. You don’t matter here. You are in danger here. This land is not your land, and if you start acting like it might be (say, by electing a black president or taking to the streets demanding basic respect), we will find you and make you pay.
And there’s one more thing…
To quote another Ferguson Freedom Fighter, Kayla Reed:
“White people, save all your heartbreak and sadness and get off your ass and collect your people. #Charlottesville.”
Fellow white folk, make no mistake, these are our kin. These are our cousins, our aunts and uncles, our classmates and friends and it is well past time for us to get our house in order. It is time for us to collect our people.
After all we have put people of color through in this nation’s history, while we must listen deeply to their experience and be informed by their wisdom, as white people, we must not burden them with the responsibility of dismantling these systems and defeating this evil.
Fellow white people, this sin is ours. And it is up to us to go through the process of self-examination, confession, repentance, reparation (yes, I said reparation) and amendment of life before we can dare to hope for absolution from God and from those we have injured and killed.
At All Saints Church, we have, for more than 100 years, stood for God’s abiding love for all God’s children. We have stood up for justice and stood up against evil. The images we see this weekend are evil, and this ain’t new. And it is clear that although our efforts have been considerable and faithful, they have not nearly been enough.
It is well past time for us – individually and as a community – to rededicate ourselves to the eradication of white supremacy. A vestry resolution is nice, and it is not nearly enough. We must realize that this must be at the very core of our following of Jesús. And in dedication to that path of discipleship, we must, as Lauren and the other courageous saints who stood up in Charlottesville this weekend did, pledge to one another, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
The Rev. Michael Kinnman, rector, All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California