As I write, it is a Sunday night before another week of travel, and I wanted to be in touch in these days of deep and holy unrest. Events in Ferguson Missouri and New York City have been much on my mind and heart, as I know they have been for so many of you. I have been so consumed with rage and grief and fear that, until now, words have failed me.
It’s not easy to be the leader of this school and to write these words. I wish my position as a seminary president could protect me, my husband, and my two young adult sons. I wish my educational attainments or the books I’ve written might render me immune from fear. I wish my husband’s tenderness, my older son’s musical brilliance or my younger son’s humor could protect them as they go about the business of living while black, two of them in cities far from my watchful eyes. I wish my brother in Boston and my brother in Chicago and my nephews in downstate Illinois and Denver could lead their lives with a certain casual indifference to their surroundings. I wish that the work and the struggle and the deaths and lives of generations of people before me had come to mean something more than they mean at this moment.
But they don’t.
I am still a black woman in America, and all the men I love and mention here are black men in America, and all of us are expendable at any time, and that is the truth of our lives. And though I always believed I could write my way through anything, this sense of horror I have been carrying for the last several days has so overwhelmed me that only in the last 24 hours have I been able to catch my breath.
What has helped to breathe life back into me have been the pictures and the videos of people in the streets—my sisters and brothers who are black, and those who are not black, but who know this is also their fight. What is breathing hope into my heart are the scholars and the researchers who are investigating everything from the neurobiology of racism to the interventions that surface white privilege so that people who care enough can begin to change themselves. What is making me proud is knowing how many of you reading this have been marching and writing and advocating and preaching and demanding a different world than the one we are living in right now.
Sometimes, when some of us are too disheartened or discouraged for speech, we need to see the faithfulness of others to regain our voice. In these heartbreaking days that may yet become a turning point, I thank God for the Starr King community into which I have been called. Thank you for your outrage and your fierce love of justice; thank you for your insight into the unrest that you have seen and for your commitment to peace in spite of justified anger. Thank you for your Facebook postings and your organizing and your vigil-keeping. Thank you for holding a space for me large enough to believe that, though the struggle continues, it is forever worthwhile. I’ll be back to join you soon.