by Tim Deveney, Precious Blood Volunteers Director
Disasters are often times when people rally around each other. The outpouring of support for people and communities whose lives have been devastated, interrupted, or taken is often overwhelming. It often breaks down barriers that might usually get in the way of normal human interaction.
There is a meme being widely shared on social media about how “this is us” and “this is not us.” The picture at the top is of a young, strong white man dressed in camouflage pants carrying a woman of color with her baby through floodwaters in what is presumably Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey dumped several feet of rain in a matter of days. The bottom part of the meme—that is captioned by “This is Not Us”—features two pictures. The first is neo-Nazi and neo-Confederate protestors in Charlottesville. The other is three members of Antifa (a militant anti-fascist group).
The first picture illustrates the inherent goodness of people being willing to walk through waters that are possibly tainted with chemicals and disease to rescue someone they do not know and might otherwise have nothing to do with. Both of those are us. As human beings, we have great capacity for good. People are willing to run into burning buildings to save other people or pets. There are those who have been willing to stand up against the injustices they see in their communities without thought about how them taking a stand against powerful forces might affect them personally.
While I agree with the first part of this meme I strongly object to the characterization of the second part. Both of those are us. We have great capacity and tolerance for violence in our culture that is represented both by the neo-Nazi/neo-Confederate protestors and by Antifa. Our culture still bears the stains of the sins of racism and the neo-Nazi/neo-Confederate banner represent the worst of our racism.
As people of the Precious Blood we have an important role to play. Our roles should involve promoting reconciliation through honesty, standing with those who are suffering, and being people who are willing to engage in tough conversations about racism.
We are not only called to work against the pernicious racism in our society, but also to be honest about it. Being honest is hard, but reconciliation cannot happen until people come forward and speak in truth about their role in the sins of racism and violence. This is being honest about who we are and naming the evil in our world. In the United States, we have a difficult time being honest about the history and legacy of racism. We need to be forthright in acknowledging that the original sin in the United States is racism—and how some of us have benefitted, and continue to benefit, from the durable legacy of structural and cultural racism. We need to be honest about how racism hurts us as human beings and has real life impacts on education, housing, employment, and how people of color are treated in the legal system. Part of this honesty is admitting our own biases and our participation in systems that, in many cases, are discriminatory in practice and/or outcomes.
As people of the Precious Blood we are called to be with people who are suffering. This takes many forms, and our ministries offer each of us the opportunity to stand with people who have been hurt by racism in our society. At Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago we are standing with those who bear the lasting mark of racism that has, at least in part, fed into the violence and poverty present in that community.
Finally, we have a duty to stand in the breach and listen. We have to be willing to promote dialogue. Our listening needs to be done with love and care: standing in the breach, promoting dialogue and understanding—but at the same time standing with the truth that human beings have a fundamental dignity that needs to be respected, upheld, and promoted in all that we do. When we stand with people whose voices are not heard we have a responsibility to amplify their voices and to speak out against laws, policies, structures, and traditions that are discriminatory. Ω