By: Lauren Frances Guerra
June 24, 2015
What I do know is that silence is complicity. Racism is a sin. And silence regarding racist social structures is also sinful.
During the first week of June, I had the privilege of participating in FTE’s Christian Leadership Forum. It was a diverse group, not only in ethnic background but also in terms of our religious affiliation and research interests. In the dissertation cohort, we had frank conversations regarding the blatant racism and the more subtle micro aggressions that scholars of color must deal with. One of the key questions asked throughout the course of the week was: How are we inspiring leaders to shape the future?
Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church gave a powerful and moving message on immigration. As the first Latina bishop, she made an urgent call for immediate immigration reform. This topic hit close to home as my father and maternal grandfather both came to the United States in hopes of creating a better life. I returned to Los Angeles after the forum feeling rejuvenated. And then, a week later, news broke of how a white male terrorist (who intended to start a race war) brutally murdered nine African-American men and women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Horrific.
People of color have known from personal and community experience that racism is still rampant. The Charleston massacre is forcing the United States to face itself. Among the murdered was the brilliant Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state Senator who had recently lobbied1 for stricter gun control laws. An NRA spokesman had the audacity of blaming the pastor for his own murder for not allowing concealed guns to be carried into church.2 The legacy of racism is alive and well. It is happening not only here. The Dominican Republic3 has also been in the news recently for the racist deportation policies it plans to implement.
Honestly, I find myself at a loss for words. What I do know is that silence is complicity. Racism is a sin. And silence regarding racist social structures is also sinful. I don’t claim to have answers or solutions, far from it. However, I do know that through education, we can empower communities and can begin to combat the ignorance, which is at the root of racism.
As a theologian, I understand teaching as my vocation and ministry. (Allow me to point out that this is particularly true for me because as a woman, I am not allowed to be ordained as a priest or serve as a pastor in the Roman Catholic Church.) Dr. Chad Williams, Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, offers an excellent resource guide as a starting point for teaching about Charleston.4 Let us not try to fast forward5 past the pain, loss, and suffering. We must spend some time living in the discomfort, in lament, and in mourning because Black lives matter.