‘This is America’

We said from the beginning that our sermon series, “Privilege and Promise: This is America,” would make us all uncomfortable. We said from the beginning that this series would make us incensed and mournful. We said from the beginning that this series would challenge us but also, we hoped, teach us. We said from the beginning that racism is layered, multifaceted, and intersectional. We said from the beginning that subtext abounds in this series through our titles, subtitles, images, and words. Here I lay bare one major piece of that subtext.

“This is America.” From the first meeting Pastor Danita and I had to plan this series, I knew I wanted that phrase as our subtitle. Why? The main answer is, as I’m sure many of you figured out weeks ago, Donald Glover. Or, more accurately for this particular piece of art, his stage name: Childish Gambino. 

Warning: This video is disturbing. It is about the Black experience in USAmerica, so it cannot help but be disturbing. I am convinced we — all of us, but especially we who are White* — need to watch this and try to take it in. We need to be disturbed. 

(I know this song is two years old now. So I’m sure most of you reading this here have seen this video already. But when I originally wrote this for my congregation — who are predominantly 55 years old and older and White — I thought there was a decent chance many hadn’t yet been exposed to it.)

If that video upsets you, consider this: August 28th was the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington at which John Lewis was the youngest speaker and at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 57 years. You know, the one wherein Dr. King offered that line, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The line White people love to quote as a way to decry Affirmative Action, one of the few programs actually offering some small form of reparations. One of the few programs actually working to bend the moral arc of our universe toward justice. 

Honestly, how much has actually changed for Black folks in the USA in 57 years? That’s why this video is necessary and necessarily disturbing. 

And if we — especially we who are White — are tired of this racism conversation after just six (nonconsecutive) weeks? Imagine how tired all our Black and Brown neighbors are of living with it every second of every day of their lives. 

Together let’s do all we can be the actively antiracist church Jesus calls us to be

*I continue to include this note because this change continues to be jarring for me too. Why is White capitalized? The AP style has recently changed to capitalize Black but not White. I’ve read arguments for this distinction and arguments against it. I will capitalize both because I find most compelling the reasoning that we who are White have for too long hidden behind a generic cultural sense that positions us as the default. I am convinced that has contributed to us being blinded by our White privilege and unable or unwilling to see the reality of racism in our systems and in ourselves. 

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