It's the best of times. It's the worst of times.
While waiting for this past weekend's Pride Parade to start, I briefly chatted with the rector of our congregation. We were, of course, all high on the Supreme Court's decision to make marriage equality the law of the land, but I couldn't help myself. I noted that the previous two weeks had seen the best and the worst of the United States broadcast loudly across the world.
I was referring to the horrific shootings at the prayer meeting in Charleston. (The shooter prayed with them for an hour before he did it! Seldom do I use "bad language" with as much conviction as I did when I heard that detail.)
My rector briefly spoke about the ways the Episcopal Church needs to make real confession and repentance of their part in racist America---something she repeated in the next morning's sermon, bringing up how the Episcopal Church was funded in part by slave trade in it's early American years.
We like to think this is something that happened long ago, but it's still playing out. I think the spiritual scars of something like slavery is passed on for a few generations.
Most importantly, it's not going to go away by good white people pretending they're past it, that they "don't see color," that they do their part by not actively oppressing anyone.
I know because I live most of my life trying to pretend all that. It's easy to do. When you're white, privileged, it's easy to pretend that everyone shares your ease in life. It's jarring to be reminded it isn't working.
It isn't working because a 21 year old man is still filled with hate for people of color, enough so to shoot up a church room full of them.
It isn't working because over half a dozen traditionally Black churches have burned down in the last two weeks.
It isn't working because people still defend flying the flag of a slavery nation, there are still people saying things were better before desegregation, there are still people wanting us to believe that slavery "wasn't that bad."
I don't know exactly what to do next, but I know everything done up to now isn't nearly enough. Everything done up to now isn't working.
Celebrating good things is a good thing. Celebrating marriage equality is good, and I do. I believe we should celebrate when we celebrate, without apology or hesitation. There are good things in the world.
And it's time to get serious about repentance. Confession and repentance, but particularly repentance. Confession is not much good if we don't actively turn away from the things we confess. Turning away from all the ways we adhere to the systems of terror and death and oppression and fear . . . this is not accomplished with simple confession and a word of forgiveness!
People mired in their hate are not going to hear this. I won't even pretend to be talking to them.
I'm talking to the good white people out there who get along fine with their Black co-workers and invite the Black kids to their kids birthday parties. I'm talking to the fine white people who really want to move into a post-racial society and think they can do so because they don't experience racism. I'm talking to people who just don't want to make anyone uncomfortable with all this talk about race, least of all themselves.
I'm talking to people like me.
It's going to be hard work. It's so easy to go with the flow of white privilege when you have it. It's so hard to speak up when you see racism in action before your eyes, so easy to pretend that maybe something else is going on, not just that person is getting the raw deal because they have more melanin than I do.
It's the best of times and it is also the very scariest worst of times. We're on a road to some kind of hell and while I endorse celebrating what is good in the world, we need to be careful that we don't party while the fires rise up around us, destroying us before everyone can celebrate.