I am a black man. I spend literally every day of my life looking over my shoulder wondering from where the next glare, taunt, invective, and threat will come my way because I am black. I am a black father. I place my head on my pillow each night praying that my two black sons will not meet their demise at the hands of a police officer drunk with power, or a vigilante living out the dogma of white supremacy.
These concerns may seem illogical to you. If so, then I know you are neither black nor the parent of a black child. My indoctrination to this fear began when I was just a little boy facing severe repercussions should I drink from the water fountain marked “Whites Only” or try to sit on the main level of the movie theater and not in the balcony reserved for blacks. That fear intensified when the KKK began sending letters to our family’s home outlining the fate that awaited me if I continued glancing at white girls in our recently integrated school.
I am a black man in search of peace. However, I know there can be no peace without justice. The institutionalized and systemic racism that permeates every part of American society denies my sister, brothers, wife, children, and me the inalienable rights purportedly guaranteed all citizens of this country. There is no life, liberty, and justice for all in this nation. Not if you are black. Happiness cannot be pursued as long as those sworn to protect and serve deliver with impunity, pain, suffering, and death to black people.
Too many that cloak themselves in the flag, and sing a national anthem that was first heralded as a pro-slavery song, are concerned more about Colin Kaepernick kneeling than about the knee that was in the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds squeezing every breath of life out of his black body. Such lynchings might end if more allegiance was paid to the Cross of Jesus than to the “Stars and Stripes.”
I am a black man that has been in search of the land of the free for six decades. My father never found it. His father never found it. My sons will likely not find it in their lifetimes. It’s possible peace that grows from justice can be found. However, it will take more courage than my white sisters and brothers have shown they have. Demonstrations, protests, vigils, and even riots now in streets across America, are indicators that people may finally be fed-up with the virus of racism that infects our healthcare, housing, education, athletics, entertainment, economic, and injustice systems.
A black man offered words more than 50 years ago that have profound relevance for today:
“The time is always right to do what is right. The ultimate measure of a person is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.”
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship is looking for some more “good people,” as The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described, to work for the removal of the knee of racism from the neck of America. EPF has space reserved for those seeking peace through justice who have the courage to speak-out, and act against this Spirit-destroying pandemic. No experience is necessary.