Preached in Keenan Chapel at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 21 June, 2015, Columbia, South Carolina.
I’ve never before preached from a pulpit here in Keenan Chapel. As many of you know, I’ve almost never used a manuscript. But the words God has for us this morning are too important to be trusted to my fickle, fragile mind; I had to commit them to paper, and I pray that we will receive them with humility, softness of heart, lament, and resolution.
May God take the coal of his holiness and cleanse my lips, that the living Word may take root in all our hearts this morning; through the name of the Living God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
My brother texted me in the middle of the night Wednesday, telling me he had just heard about the shooting and was thinking of me. At 1am in the glow of my iphone, I checked cnn.com and read about Emmanuel AME church, not quite processing that it was in Charleston, South Carolina, and not quite understanding the extent of the event, I turned over and went back to sleep. Less than a year since Michael Brown, and already, the shooting of black people is so pervasive that I went back to sleep. God forgive me.
When I awoke on Thursday and read more, I cringed and sighed and fumed and said to myself, “Why does this keep happening to them?!” Do you hear what I thought? “Them”? As if “they”—black people—are not me. God forgive me.
Likewise, I was sad and blue and in grief on Thursday, but I also went out to lunch and complained about the heat; I spent an hour or two in front of the computer trolling the Internet aimlessly. I was more distracted than usual, but I had the privilege of considering whether I deserved a cupcake for putting in such a long day, and the mental distance to look at beauty products online. That mental space—moments when I forgot what had happened, those are privileges, those are assumptions of safety that I can afford. Those are hardness-es in my heart that are simply not available to our black brothers and sisters. God forgive me.
When I enter a room, I never think to myself, “oh, I’m one of the only white people here”–because I never am one of only a few white people in a room. I don’t notice–that’s white privilege. Walking down the street, especially as a white woman in the south, I have the privilege of knowing that any white man will defend me from any black, poor, mentally ill, or strange person I might encounter. I know that I won’t be looked at sideways, or followed by employees, or unduly avoided, whether I walk into the Target on Garner’s Ferry Road, or Whole Foods, or on the West Columbia Riverwalk, or Oak Table, across the street. I know that in any situation of question, I will have the benefit of the doubt.
When I go home at night—even though I live in Rosewood—I never worry that my car or house window will be broken. My friend who is Ethiopian and lives in Shandon sometimes has to clean up debris in his yard, and is missing a side mirror on his car because he is black.
I will never have to fear sending my children to school–or at least I’ll have the fewest reasons to fear of any parent. My (unconceived) daughter will, like me, have the benefit of most of society looking out for her because she’ll be pretty and white and smart and probably skinny—her parents can afford to buy fresh food and spend time cooking it for her, and her parents can use their own confidence in the color of their skin to make sure she gets into a good classroom, and check her homework so that she gets good grades.
That’s all white privilege, and it exists and is perpetuated because of racism.
White privilege says, “White is normal.” My mind’s knee-jerk reaction is, “White is normal.” But the truth, my friends, is that “white” is not “normal”—that is a lie of the devil.
God’s normal is the only one that matters to Christians, and God’s normal is multi-colored. God’s normal is diverse. God’s kingdom gathers together the people from all nations under heaven.
Trinity looks more like my normal than God’s normal. This community looks more like the lies and divisions caused by evil than the kingdom described to us in Scripture.Let us repent of our sin and ask God to turn our hearts from hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Let us recognize our complicity and the hopelessness of our situation if not for God’s grace.
See, brothers and sisters, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! Let us put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God let us commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. Let us be treated as impostors, and yet be true; as unknown, and yet be well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:1-13)
My brothers and sisters, now is the day of salvation. We own up to our sins in front of God our Father and we ask that God would clothe us in white through the power of his Son’s redeeming blood. Just as each and every one of the nine families whose loved ones were martyred Wednesday night said to Dylann Roof at his hearing on Friday, God says to each of us, “I forgive you.” Amen.
Very well put.
Very profound words. Thank you.