I personally condemn all forms of racism, bigotry, hatred, discrimination, and violence—sins against God and humanity. Like so many other Americans, I am sickened by the brutal and pointless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other victims of racist violence.
At an African American church, literally around the corner from my home, I attended a prayer vigil this week. Several thousand joined, including pastors, police, city officials, neighbors, adults, children—Americans. We listened quietly as one speaker after another expressed their agony, pain, and personal experiences with being treated as something less than human. We listened. It was humbling and enlightening. We ended with prayer, not violence. It was beautiful.
Living in fear is crippling. Feeling unwelcome is crippling. Removing a person’s humanity is crippling.
Recently, my daughters suggested I watch a movie called Crip Camp, A Disability Revolution. It chronicles a group of teen campers who are inspired to join the fight for disability civil rights through grassroots activism. I remember bits and pieces of that time and have even met some champions who joined the fight that eventually became the Americans with Disabilities Act. I remember my father lamenting the cost this would add to new construction and how it seemed excessive, a burden. He didn’t know that 30 years later his granddaughters would be the beneficiaries. Although I can’t experience what my children do, I now look at everything differently: a curb, a set of stairs, the way people interact with adults in wheelchairs. I can empathize, change the way I think and see the world differently. They both joined a protest last night in another city, in their motorized chairs, in solidarity with another minority group that has suffered much.
As the speakers shared their perspectives at the vigil, I replaced what they were saying with my children’s reality. It was sobering. It is sobering. Black lives matter. Disabled lives matter. We see and hear you.
This generation has no tolerance for racism. That is truly a beautiful thing. My hope is that fervor is poured into worthy, positive, Godly healing action. Those who want to hijack peaceful protests with looting, rioting, and violence dishonor the memory of men like George Floyd and dishonor the movement that has been birthed out of this needless tragedy.
These events, as painful as they are, create a platform for healthy dialog where barriers can be broken down, questions can be asked and answered. Historic approaches to address racism can be reviewed, analyzed, and evaluated. If they are not effective, then new strategies must be considered. Human beings require dignity. Dignity is based on honoring everyone’s humanity and perspective. I look forward to the day when honest conversations can create new, more effective approaches.
We’ve heard a great deal about what is wrong with our country this past week. And yet, people from around the world risk their very lives and the lives of their children to cross our borders for the mere hope of what we often take for granted. The American experiment is a work in progress. But we mustn’t throw out the baby with the bath water; we all lose in that case. The very freedom we are blessed with, and value so much, can at times create painful disagreements. We have the right to argue, to disagree and to protest when we know that things need to change.
This morning I ran past that same church on my usual route. I decided to take a left and run through Natchez, a predominately African American neighborhood. I came up behind an older man taking a morning walk. When he heard me, he turned around and smiled. I said good morning, and he responded, “Keep going, you’re doing good.” I tucked that away—let’s keep going, together.