Those are the words that keep cycling through my head in the past several days, as I've been using what I do best, writing, to take a stand.
They are from a song written by Judy Fjell, "Where Are You Standing":
"I can hear the words a-rumblin'Destruction is upon usI can hear the people whisperThe signs are everywhereAnd there's an air of fear and sadnessTo so many conversationsThere are questions that lingerThere are questions that haunt usThere are questions in our livesWhere are you standing?Are you standing on the side of fear?Do you close your heart to othersWhen differences appear between youWhere are you standingDo you shout so only you can hearOr do you listen to the beat of the world?
I wrote to Judy, asking her if I could use her song on a video with Black Lives Matter protest images. She wrote back, saying she’d love to have me use “Where Are You Standing” for such a purpose.
Two things happened yesterday. Two people I love took a stand and made me proud:
1. My former pastor and now-bishop of the Oregon Synod Lutheran church (ELCA) wrote an incredible letter to Lutherans in her state. Here is an excerpt:
"I am a bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, the whitest denomination in the United States. I serve the Oregon Synod, perhaps the whitest synod in the ELCA. I have been long marinated in my privilege. So as I light a candle and pray for racial justice and the long-deferred dream of wholeness, I have more questions than answers:
- How do you kneel on a human being’s neck for nine minutes?
- How many precautions are needed before a brown or black bodied person can jog unarmed down a street?
- How can the dignity of entire groups of people, in a nation, a church, a region I love so much, be so willfully overlooked for four-hundred years and counting?
- How have I benefited from silence, and what does truly liberating action look like?
- What would it look like for the ELCA to 'take a knee'?I don’t know. But I do know some things:
- White Supremacy reigns, and it isn’t simply about individuals, it’s about systems and institutions which consistently privilege one race above all others.
- Racism and white supremacy are sins. Though I am committed to an anti-racist life and learnings, having been marinated in the white supremacy of my culture and, by virtue of the color of my skin, I am racist.
- All people are God’s beloveds and to be able to see that we need to help center the experiences of those who’ve been marginalized and silenced for eons.
- The violence we see all around us is dangerous, and yet is a response to a culture which violates, and has violated, black and brown bodies for centuries.
- It’s time I learned to listen. It’s time the institutions I love learn to be open to radical transformation.
- None of this work toward justice, peace, and transformation, which is God’s work, will be easy."
Then she urged churches to consider designating the money they usually would send to the synod (the church's governing body) to a a trusted local organization working for racial justice and to dismantle white supremacy...and she included links to some of those organizations. This act of selfless justice, in a time of budget pressures at the synod and local churches because of lower-than-average offerings, is a genuine gesture of conciliation and reparation from the "whitest denomination in America" (as coined by Pastor Lenny Duncan in his book Dear Church).
I was blown away when I read this suggestion...especially because I wrote this exact guideline in my article about what white people can do to support their Black coworkers...and that if organizations take a stand, they absolutely have to take action too. I am so proud to be an ELCA Oregon Lutheran.
2. My 17-year-old son, Kieran, went downtown to protest with thousands of other Portlanders. He invited a friend of the family, a Black man named Damany, to accompany him along with one of Kieran's friends. Damany said he would actually feel safer going to the protest with a white boy, and we felt safer knowing Kieran would be with a responsible adult.
When I texted him around 9:30 to ask when he was coming home, he responded, "I'm kinda busy rn kinda protesting."
At one point in the evening, Kieran marched into an intersection, waving at the cars coming and motioning others along behind him. Damany said, "Damn! There's some white privilege right there."
Damany, who's been marching and protesting for years, said it was the most powerful march of his life. Kieran is so fired up that he's returned downtown tonight, too, for their second night of protesting. They were three of the bodies laying down on the Burnside Bridge in the photo at the top of this post.
I hope to join them one of these nights when I can.
I'm so proud of Kieran for standing on the right side of justice.
Many white people are finally waking up to the injustices Black people face in this country, a legacy of slavery and our military industrial complex. But many still have their heads in the sand, hoping this issue will go away and Black people will "get over" racism.
This is not going away. It is a revolution long overdue.
Where are you standing?