Monday, June 01, 2020

DE Ponderings

by Kevin Kessler

(Read Exodus 7:1-15:27)

The cost to humanity in the United States in 2020 is tremendous. Without a doubt, losing over 100,000 lives to COVID-19 is perplexing. Add to the mix intensified racial tensions sparked by inconceivable atrocities that continue to be committed against black men and women. Peaceful demonstrations calling for justice began quickly. Unwelcome violence followed with losses to property and, in some instances, loss of life.

These immediate costs must not overshadow the long-term costs endured for decades by people of color. For all too long, our siblings of color have suffered injustices as a result of systemic white privilege. The costs are experienced as disproportionate wealth, inconsistent health care, and discrimination in employment opportunities, to name a few. The sum of these costs is loss of dignity.

Compounding this loss over countless years without necessary systemic change is a recipe for the cries to grow stronger—and rightly so. The unrest being witnessed presently is difficult for many, white and privileged, to understand and fathom. As a white, privileged male, I don’t fully understand it, either. How can I? But I seek to learn and to know more and to understand how as part of the problem I might find opportunity to help bring change. And if I don’t, not only will my siblings of color continue to suffer, but the whole of humanity will as well. Black lives matter. If I don’t believe this, then neither do I believe that any life matters.

I am reminded of the Exodus story. For centuries, the Hebrew people were enslaved by the Egyptians. They were suppressed and oppressed. They were unable to experience the privileges of their oppressors. They continued to cry out for relief and release. As the oppression pressed down upon them with more intensity, so then their cries for justice became louder and stronger. The denial of dignity had become more than they could bear.

Were the plagues that came on the heels of their loudest cries equivalent to the protests being experienced in our culture today? If so, can we learn from that ancient story? The plagues—protests—continued as a means of trying to get the attention of the privileged oppressors. Change was needed. Each plague caused difficulty for all peoples in this story. But change did not happen until the plague—the protest—had a personal impact on the privileged oppressor. The oppressed were provided the opportunity to be relieved of this final plague. With a simple act, the plague passed over them. Finally, they received release. But the cost? All, Egyptian and Hebrew, suffered along the way. How significant it was, though, to the privileged with the final protest. Although the cost to the privileged seemed great during the previous plagues, it would have been better to take the risk then than to receive the final cost. Consider then, would not all of humanity experience a greater wholeness if we, in this present age, listen carefully and act accordingly, now?

Because of my status in society as a white, privileged male, I am not qualified to speak about these issues. I am certainly not an expert in these matters by any stretch of the imagination. I may make mistakes in the way I convey my thoughts, for which I am sorry and humbly seek forgiveness. However, I cannot remain quiet. I add my voice to those who hurt and seek justice. It is time that I accept the risk, in whatever way I can, to initiate change, so that my siblings of color will experience the dignity that is rightfully theirs and all of humanity will experience wholeness as our Creator intended.