May 11, 2018
by Julie Kalkowski
Creighton University's Philosophy Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Lectionary: 524

Acts 18:9-18
Psalm 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
John 16:20-23

Daily Easter Prayer

Celebrating Easter Home

Prayers by and for Mothers

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

An Easter Blessing

Easter Joy in Everyday Life

While there is much to unpack in today’s first reading, I kept being struck by the greeting in Paul’s vision: “Do not be afraid.”   Jesus was so aware of the various fears that all of us confront as human beings throughout our lives. Fear can so often blind me from seeing what is really happening.

Recently a white store manager in Philadelphia called the police because there two young African American men sitting there who had yet to order. Nothing in these men’s behavior or demeanor was different than countless other Starbucks’ customers.  They were simply waiting for the third member of their meeting to show up.  And yet the police were called and these two men were taken away in handcuffs. 

Race is such a tough issue for our society.  We have so many unresolved issues around race.  A big part of the reason I believe we have so much fear of each other is that we are still so separated as races.  When we don’t live or work or pray together, it’s hard to see each other as the children of God we are.  If we don’t see the common daily problems we face as humans (worry about children or parents, job loss, etc.), it makes it harder to see our commonalities. I fear what I do not know. This artificial separation based on race in our communities perpetuates fear and distrust.  If we don’t know each other, how can we move forward? As I personally do not know the store manager who called the police, I am not going to label her as a racist. But her behavior and fear, is a legacy of racism…a legacy that continues to cause damage throughout our country.

Right now I am reading a book, The Lessons of Ubuntu:  How an African Philosophy Can Inspire Racial Healing in America by Mark Mathabane.  After he used the famous quote by Martin Niemoller about how no one was left to speak up for him, he wrote this amazing paragraph: 

“What could have saved each group from Hitler or any of his tyrannical heirs who’ve persecuted and killed millions around the world from Cambodia to Rwanda—and will do so again unless they are stopped—is empathy, the obeying of Christ’s most important commandments—being our brother’ and sisters’ keeper—the evolution of that higher consciousness which binds us to each other to ensure our collective survival.” 

In my late 20s, I ran a program for women transitioning from welfare to work.  These women were roughly the same age as me, late 20s to early 30s.   All seven of the women I worked with went into the workforce, although at wages that barely supported their families.  Now, 30 years later, none of these women are still working.  One retired, three have passed away, and the other three are on disability.  Besides the stress of poverty, how much did living with the daily pressure of race play in three premature deaths and three permanent disabilities related to strokes, heart disease and diabetes? Those three chronic diseases are stress related.  Could Carol have lived beyond 41 or Ella 53 or Theola 49?  I will never know, but I can’t help thinking that living as an African American in our country can be incredibly stressful and that stress takes a toll on people’s health. 

As a white person, I don’t have to think about race on a daily basis. But finding out that all but one of the women I had worked with were either dead or disabled before they were 60, made me realize that race must play a factor in such dismal health outcomes.  We all pay a price for racism in our society.  The price people of color pay seems to be much higher than the one I have to pay.

I don’t know how we as a country can overcome the damaging legacy of racism in our society.  But, what I can do, as white person, is be more award of my actions.  Am I acting out of fear based on a person’s skin color as opposed to their actions?  Do I benefit in certain situations because of my skin color?  And if yes, do I speak up or just let it pass? 
The work to repair and restore relationships between the races is not an easy task or one that can be achieved quickly or painlessly.   But it is work that must be done so that we can see each other for who we all are---sisters and brothers in Christ.

Let us not be discouraged or dismayed over the hard work we have ahead of us to bring racial healing. We remember what Jesus said in today’s gospel: “Amen, amen I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you.”  So today I am going to ask God to bring racial healing to America and to all the other countries on our planet.  I need God’s help in overcoming my fears based on race so it doesn’t prevent me from the sharing the joy of this Easter season with everyone.  

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