I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. When I was in elementary school, I saw signs for colored and white water fountains every time I went into a store. I never questioned the status quo. That’s just the way things were in the 1950s. As a teenager with a summer job, I was kicked out of a diner when I popped in for lunch with a black coworker. It was aggravating, but I didn’t say anything to the angry waitress who yelled at us. I shrugged and went down the street to buy hamburgers for us to eat outside. That’s just the way things were in the 60s. I rarely thought about the pervasive racism of my youth. I was shielded from the harsh reality by my local community and by my whiteness. Birmingham was a hotbed of protests and marches and violent reaction by the authorities. I was oblivious. All that happened far away from the trajectory of my normal everyday life. I heard an occasional news snippet when I passed by the television on my way out the door to hang out with my friends. It never occurred to me that those terrible events were worthy of my attention. I was in college when I finally read about the bombings, the water hoses, the marches, and the murders of four little black girls who died because they decided to go to church on a Sunday morning.
Maybe not. Other voices are speaking out for justice. Large numbers of folks are coming together to demand an end to the violence perpetrated against people of color. I'm no longer an oblivious child. I'm an adult and I have a choice. I can remain silent. That’s certainly the safest option. But if I say nothing, that makes me complicit in the continued marginalization. I can declare I am not a racist a million times. But if I do nothing else, if I say nothing else, those words mean absolutely nothing. So, I've decided to say this.
I’ve seen racism in action for over fifty years. It’s been going on far longer than that. The problem seems unending and overwhelming. Am I a racist? I hope not. I'd rather be a reconciler. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ. Through the lens of my faith I see that God, the Father, relishes diversity. He made a world teeming with variety and beauty expressed in countless ways in nature and in people. Jesus, the Son, gave me an example to follow during his time on earth. He rescued the marginalized, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ministered to everyone regardless of their race, sex, or perceived place in the society of his day. The Holy Spirit compels me to love everyone and to be a peacemaker who values mercy, justice, and grace.