Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
I have a great-nephew named Gabriel Montgomery Howard. Five-year-old Gabe has my middle name, bright round eyes, and infectious laugh. When I imagine a future for Gabe, I try not to see him being pulled over without a cause and forced out of a car. I do not want to imagine a future for Gabe where he cannot live or work where he wants because of the color of his skin. I don’t want Gabe to have to repeat the racist incidents that have plagued many members of my family, from my grandmother to my nephews and daughters. I want it to stop now.
The past several days since the murder of George Floyd have been a rolling nightmare. The death of Floyd on national T.V. has deepened the wound of racism and white privilege in our nation. As an African American male, I along with other people of color took a collective gasp as we felt the weight of historic wrongs, and ancestral pain caused by a system designed to keep us on the ground and beneath the knee of society. COVID-19 brought to bear societal underlying conditions of poverty, food deserts, inferior medical access, and physical ailments that created a higher death rate in communities of color than in white communities. African Americans and people of color are pressed by the pandemic and crushed by society. And even as we cry out, “I can’t breathe,” the only relief is hope is heaven, since death is the place of liberty and justice.
Earlier this year our presbytery did tremendous work with the document “An Apology to Our African American Sisters and Brothers for The Sin of Slavery and Its Legacy.” This document which the presbytery voted into policy, outlines the history of white privilege and how it has directly affected the presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy. The following quote seems prophetic regarding George Floyd.
“We have turned our backs and walked away pretending not to see, yet we saw, pretending not to know, yet we knew, and convincing ourselves that we were not complicit, yet we are. We now know that we as white Christians have benefitted directly and indirectly from these injustices. We name ourselves as complicit and repent.”
Perhaps repentance can lead to reconciliation. Reconciliation happens when the pedestal of white privilege is dismantled and becomes debris, As Presbyterians we are a white church with wealth, privilege, and power. Let us use these tools and the access we have to prominent positions in our society to dismantle racism and destroy white privilege and its benefits.
Reconciliation happens when white people can see African Americans and people of color as equals. Reconciliation can only happen when people see one another eye to eye. Only then can we expect justice and equal treatment under the law and in the church for all people. Only then can we expect our 95 – 100% white congregations to treat people of color who are outside of their doors with mutual respect. Only then will these white congregations choose a pastor of color as their leader, without hesitation or regard to race, gender, or sexuality. As a presbytery we should expect or demand nothing less than this.
Meetings and policy are helpful but may not be enough. To become a presbytery of reconciliation, we will need a transformation in our souls. Transformation and conversion may happen instantaneously, but often it occurs over time. It happens through focus and commitment, reading and learning, interacting and participation in the actions of our communities. It happens through prayer, lots of prayer!
My hope is that the Christ within us is greater than the color of our skin. As Christians, let us stand up for justice for all of God’s people. As Christians we can stop this historic damage now and give our children and the following generations a chance at peace and reconciliation.
Rev. Craig M. Howard