The Oasis - June 10, 2020

Author: Rev. Estelle Margarones
June 10, 2020

June 10, 2020
Rev. Estelle Margarones

Sunday 6:55 AM: I woke up to an ugly truth today about my bias and my place in a racist society. I knew I was privileged, but I didn’t even grasp how much the systems were stacked in my favor and against people of color.
Tears are streaming down my face as I realize anew that our world is broken. I’m not a racist! I had a black best man in my wedding, a black roommate after college, and an Asian housemate. One of my closest friends is black. My nephew, born in Taiwan, is a person of color. 

A week after Charlottesville, I marched in Boston--making sure to take my license and health insurance card in case I was injured in any violence that could have erupted. I was scared, but determined, and older black men reached out to shake my hand as I made my way through Roxbury. I had preached about the senseless and atrocious deaths of Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and Philando Castile; and I had been moved to tears at the Civil Rights Museum. And yet, I had no idea about their life experience. 

This morning I feel the weight of what I didn’t say in the sermon. I realized that by not decrying racism head-on, I am part of the problem.  I write this, very much aware that people can separate that sentence at the comma. I write fully aware that this will be online and visible to the world for an undetermined amount of time. And I write finally aware that I may have unknowingly and unwittingly hurt (or certainly not helped) people of color by my inherent, ingrained, and unacknowledged biases and attitudes. My own ignorance astounds me—and I am anguished today.

Please understand, I did do some things.  I spent hours upon hours on the phone and the internet: seeking and vetting anti-racism resources to share with you in The Oasis, on Facebook, and in the town-wide newsletter. I spent time seeking the right wording for our church sign and attending the webinar Addressing Systematic Violence Against African Americans in Contemporary America. I posted all week on Facebook--my own and on the church account. 
Pastor Dan had addressed racism in both his sermon on Pentecost and in The Oasis last week, so I didn’t say anything other than to mention George Floyd near Communion. And I did it with some misgiving, of the mind that it would surely make some uncomfortable. I did do something--just not enough--I stopped short. The truth is that I don’t just work for the church that employs me, nor the denomination that ordained me, but I work for God. Jesus is the reason I do this work. He is my social justice Hero and he spoke truth to power.

June 5 was World Environment Day, so I chose to speak of the environment instead of speaking up about racism; the horror of which I am only just beginning to really understand. I obliquely mentioned a couple of events of the week that I desperately wanted you to hear, but was afraid to say outright because I thought you might shut down and not listen. I said to a colleague this week, “You have to say things in a way that people can hear them.”  Shame on me for not trusting you to be open to Christ’s message. 

In this moment, I feel as though I failed my community and that I failed God. But Spirit gave me another chance by sitting this so squarely on my heart this morning that I am blurting the truth about myself here in this public forum. I hope that by doing so, it will allow someone, somewhere (perhaps you) to look within and to truly examine your experience of privilege and compare it against the experiences of others.

Last week, I called an old and very dear friend. She is black and a former METCO Director. METCO is the program that promotes racial diversity by bussing urban students to suburban schools. We talked at length and something she said shook me to the core.  She said, “I’m alright. This is no different than every day for me.” (As much as that hurt to hear, I still didn’t get it.)

A few days later, on a conference call, I mentioned that I whole-heartedly believe it’s incumbent upon those with privilege to use it for those who don’t have it. Someone mentioned a term I’d never heard, “white fragility”. I looked it up and learned that it means, “discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice”.

Today I had a stunning realization. Even though I said to someone a few days ago, “This isn’t going away anytime soon,” in my heart of hearts, I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the issue and I thought at some level that it would blow over. And I am again ashamed. It’s long past time to address a basic human rights issue!
I thought I was aware, but now understand that I wasn’t. I am woke. For years, I thought the word should be ‘awakened’, but now-finally-I understand. ‘Woke’ is the right term because it’s in the black voice—and that is the voice we should be listening to and learning from right now.

I ask your forgiveness for underestimating you. I ask forgiveness of people of color everywhere for my silence. And, mostly, I ask forgiveness of God for I now know what I didn’t do when I could have. If any of my account resonates with you, I encourage you to be brave enough to admit it to yourself, to God, and to others. Educate yourself and engage with others so that you can be part of the solution to end racism in America.

I found these RESOURCES helpful: 

Read the account that my close friend posted on her Facebook. She said that this typifies her experience, the experience of her family, and the experience of her METCO students:

Listen to this interview with Clint Black or read the transcript (or at the very least, the last 8 minutes of the interview):

Listen to Debby Irving (the author) read her book, Waking Up White (And Finding Myself in the Story of Race), available as a borrowable download through the York Public Library’s partnership with Hoopla.

Scripture that applies:

Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.

Luke 10:27-37  He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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