It’s our time to move
By Rev. Susan Sparks
You know how the book of Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing new under the sun? Well, the writers were wrong. Last weekend, I heard about something that was not only new under the sun, but frankly new under any star or planet. Ready?
The parade—including the floats, bands, Shriners and politicians—is stationary. It’s the crowd that moves.
After giving my brain a moment to reset, I decided that it was a fabulous idea—not only for a parade, but in life.
So often, human beings tend to be stationary—to watch life march by. This tendency could translate to anything from risks we shy away from to loves we let go. But the parade of life that I want to focus on is a string of hateful headlines, of violence that boggles the mind, of raw, gritty images revealing the truth of modern America.
We are a racist country.
It pains my heart to write that (and probably yours to read it). Growing up in the 1960s South, busing wars and race riots were commonplace. I remember sitting in front of our black-and-white television, watching Dr. King’s funeral, the rabbit ears with aluminum foil doing their best to transmit heartbreaking images.
And here’s the truth that no one will face: Nothing has really changed.
Okay, yes, the Civil Rights Bill was passed. And affirmative action. And, yes, we have a black president. But honestly, have people’s hearts changed? Do we look at people of color differently? Really? Or has the racism gone underground?
Tell me: How is this week, 50 years later, any different from a week in the mid-1960s?
In 1966, African Americans weren’t allowed equal access to basic services. In 2016, black men are six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated, and black-white gaps in median household income and wealth have greatly widened.1
In 1966, black people feared for their lives when dealing with law enforcement. In 2016, black people still fear for their lives. Don’t believe me? Just ask the families of 136 black people killed by police since January 2016.
In 1966, we had lynchings, race-driven killings. Fifty years later, that has not changed.
And if you are reading these things while simultaneously thinking up all the reasons why they aren’t true, therein lies the problem: Denial.
That’s the whole ballgame.
So what’s my point? It’s time for a “stand still” parade. One where the issues of the day, where racism, stops and WE move.
Move out of our comfort zones and our assumption that we have transcended racism.
Move away from passivity and do something more than talk about how horrible the headlines are, shaking our heads with our neighbors and saying, “We should pray over this.”
Move on from statements like: “Why is there so much anger?” “But, we’ve made so much progress!” Or “We must strive for peace.”
And move toward remembering the words of the book of James: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?”
Rob Lee, descendent of Gen. Robert E. Lee of Civil War Confederate forces, is a Methodist minister in Raleigh, N.C. Recently, he wrote in The Washington Post: “I can’t erase the history of my family’s past, but I can say this: If you don’t use the power you’ve been given for the good of this world, then you are part of the problem. … By God, we’ve been given a voice, and it’s a grave mistake if we don’t use it.”
It’s way too late to passively watch the parade march by. The storm is not behind us. It’s our time to move—move into the reality that, we, as a country, are racist.
This is an ugly secret that is buried deep within our collective psyche. And secrets corrode and decay our national soul.
But Brothers and Sisters, the secret is out.
We must claim it by admitting to it.
And the day we do is the day that, perhaps, the parade of hate stops.
Rev. Susan Sparks
Madison Avenue Baptist Church, New York City