Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
“We repent that we have failed as an institution and as individuals to use our voices to abhor and end lynching, segregation, and racial profiling. We regret our generations of silence on these issues so that we could maintain a comfortable life in our churches, homes, and communities.” An Apology to Our African American Sisters and Brothers for The Sin of Slavery and Its Legacy
It has been a little over two weeks since the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. As the grim image of his death loses its shock to my system, I am left with the metaphor of society’s knee on the neck of African Americans and people of color. So, what do we do now? How can we use our voices to end racism in our society and world?
Last week I was forwarded an email from Rick Liekweg, the CEO of Barnes Jewish Christian Healthcare (BJC). Please read his entire letter here. The email was sent throughout the BJC healthcare community. In the letter Rick speaks of his past and upbringing as a child in Virginia. He talks about lessons learned from his parents, his advantages as a white male, and privileges of wealth. Rick ends the letter with this commitment:
“I can’t deny my privilege, but I can stand up, step forward, and call out these injustices that people who look like me have perpetuated, supported and promoted far too long. And I will do just that each and every day going forward. I now call on my white friends to do the same. Use the unearned privilege of birth for the benefit of all. If you cannot, then step aside, sit down, and get out of the way. The health and future of all God’s children depend on it.”
I immediately contacted Rick to thank him for the letter and ask permission to reprint it for the presbytery. He agreed. I sit on the board of St. Luke’s hospital, so I then sent the letter to the CEO and to the chairman of the board. I challenged them to look at the internal and external work of St. Luke’s to see where the hospital may be weak or strong when it comes to being a solution to racism in hiring, appointments, and service to the community. Gary Olson, the interim CEO, called to say that he enthusiastically supports the idea. We will work with HR and other senior leadership to do an analysis and determine in what specific ways to implement this idea.
I am using my position and privilege to challenge the hospital system to become a place where racism is eradicated and to become one place in society where the knee of oppression can be removed. This is how it starts as one voice becomes a chorus of change.
Look around your world. What boards do you sit on? What leadership do you have, or can you influence? Where do you volunteer? How many people of color do you see where you shop or eat? What would it mean to approach the leadership in any institution or business (including your church and presbytery!) and ask in your own words, “What are you doing to eradicate the scar of racism from our society?” This is one way we can make a difference. In this way we can be the relevant church in the world.
Rev. Craig M. Howard