being surprised by racism

[From an article on trauma and racism]:

When people react with horror and surprise to racist and violent incidents, they may not be aware that their reaction might not translate well for those most directly affected.

I confess that even though I am not surprised on a macro level, and I know that hateful incidents are part of a pattern of systemic racism, my immediate, unfiltered reaction to a horrific incident is often a combination of surprise and outrage (e.g., “I can’t believe that this just happened!!”). I need to check myself because I’ve learned that the expression of surprise can unintentionally have the impact of invalidating another’s experience or give the impression that I believe these incidents are, in fact, isolated. For this reason, I’m working to restrain that gut reaction!

Black people aren’t surprised. They are not surprised about #TamirRice, #TrayvonMartin #AiyanaJones #EricGarner, #SandraBland, #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, #GeorgeFloydand countless others. BIPOC in Canada are not surprised about #MissingandMurderedIndigenousWomen, #ColtenBoushi, #ChantalMoore, #MachaurMadut, #RegisKorchinskiPaquet, and so on. For those who recognize the impact of systemic and structural racism, there is no surprise.

What can I do? Reflect on my actions, learn from mistakes, read more, learn more, acknowledge more, invite feedback, and listen to what BIPOC say they need and want. These are good things that anyone can and should be doing!

tension

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

prayer for unity

[After a Sunday in which Jesus’ prayer for unity was a part of the lectionary readings, alumna Chelsea Sosiak sent me this prayer by Merton]:

Prayer for Unity

O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
you dwell in us.

Help us to preserve this openness
and to fight for it with all our hearts.

Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you,
and we love you with our whole being,
because our being is in your being,
our spirit is rooted in your spirit.

Fill us then with love,
and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world,
and makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome.
Love is victorious.

– written by Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

[On this St. Patrick’s Day, this prayer seems especially appropriate. This is the version from the Northumbria community.]

Christ, as a light
Illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

what you missed

[Maybe you missed last weekend’s “Rain and Snow” festival featuring Pádraig Ó Tuama and many others? Or maybe you were there and now you him, or miss poetry? ]

“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade”

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home….

  • Brad Aaron Modlin, [This is the start of a poem that Padraig shares and discusses in the first episode of the new podcast he started with On Being just before coming to St. Stephen. Hope it whets your appetite for more. Check this out for the full poem and Padraig’s reflection.]