February is Black History Month offering us an opportunity to discern the status of racism in our culture and in our faith. Yes, racism is a sin. And it’s still with us. Maybe simply because we are human beings living in an imperfect world.
I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the Civil Rights movement, beginning somewhere around 1954 and Brown vs. Board of Education. As a New Mexico teenager in the 1960’s I remember vaguely the tension in Montgomery, Alabama, becoming more aware when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcomb X who brought the nation of Islam into prominence in the 60’s were assassinated. I ran into the edge of the Black Panther movement in the early 1970 in the remoteness of the University of Wyoming when black members of the football team I was on, protested the religious exclusion of blacks by the Mormon Church. I remember distinctly being shocked at the emerging knowledge of the disproportionate number of blacks in the military who died on the front lines of Vietnam and environmental disasters (natural or human caused) that claim more lives of people of color than others.
Racism is a sin. It denies the image of God in people and it degrades creation and its goodness. It also tends to separate us (maybe that’s by definition) from each other and makes us blind to the reality of people’s suffering.
Black Lives Matter is a movement started in 2013 that is taking the young people (and others as well) of our nation by storm. Created and centered in the African American community it is a movement that has helped this country recently focus on violence against young black men, racial profiling, police brutality and racial inequality in the US criminal justice system. BLM has re-interpreted the February Black History Month as Black Futures Month. I love it.
“We are committed to remembering, celebrating, and learning from our history, but also imagining our future. Black people are more than what happened to us.” Black Lives Matter website.
What took me by surprise was one of their vehicles of proclamation and witness is art. Tanya Lucia Bernard, Arts and Culture Director for Black Lives Matter said this, “We aspire to use art to imagine what the future of Black life looks like.” Each day during February, Black Lives Matter will release an original piece of art and an accompanying written piece to reclaim Black History Month and demonstrate the importance of using art as both an inspiration and an organizing tool.
- Feb 1 – “Black people must hold on to our dreams”
- Feb 2 – “Our future is in our return (to the earth)” Environmental Justice
- Feb 3 – Reproductive justice
- Feb 4 – Black Trans(gender)
- These are the first few. Check out the website
In Luke’s gospel Jesus warns of the consequences of sin. And typical of Luke, the gospel not only warns us but offers a parable of God’s patience. Here’s my 21st century version of Luke 13:1-9
“At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the young black me killed by police who were charged with protecting and serving them. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that because these young men suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other people in our cities? No, I tell you; but unless you repent (turn back to God) you will all perish as they did. Just think of those black families concentrated in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” who contract the disease at a higher rate than others, are they who suffer in this way, are they greater sinners than the rest of the country? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.
And then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find non. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ The gardener replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”
Peace and Justice – Bill