I have been trying to write this post for 7 days now. I have finally come to the awareness that the difficulty in writing has been that I didn’t want my anger to spew on or distract you, and cause you to not be a part of the solution that I’m praying to accomplish. I’m a faculty member for the Koinonia School of Racial Justice. On Saturday, I participated with a tour of the Slave Trail in Richmond, Virginia and it was difficult, yet transforming.
When I tell you that I had to DECOMPRESS after that experience, it is an understatement. I went through so many emotions. I thought about the fact that my ancestors, foreparents, grandparents, and parents have experienced racism at a level that I will never fully understand. I sensed the emotions of my ancestors being chained and dragged through the woods right here in Richmond on the bank of the James River and I became angrily sickened. I thought about them arriving at those same banks, full of anguish, fear, and uncertainty; only to be separated and sold like cattle and it grieves me. I thought about how they were raped and beaten and treated like they were less than human, lower than many animals and I wept!
And so, my soul cries out as the Psalmist did, “How long God?” Because now, the slave trade is our present day prison system. When you look at the numbers and race in our prison systems, the African American male population accounts for 37% of our systems. The statistics for the school to prison pipeline are staggering as well. Black students are 3 times more likely to be arrested in school related incidents than whites. So, to be on a tour where these atrocities began, knowing that this city’s history can only be healed when we have some really hard conversations is difficult for me, because there are only a few pockets of people who want to talk about the truth of what has happened not only here, but across this nation.
While we were on the tour, I found myself looking at statutes that have been erected higher than any others in the city, to honor confederate soldiers, and I was pushed emotionally, to a place that was not healthy for me. When we get to the bank of the river where slaves were dropped off and the wind is whipping up off the water, I had on 3 layers and I was cold. I felt myself slip into a dark place thinking about my ancestors being naked, or very close to it, and then realized I needed to contain myself so that I could remain pastoral but also identify what I was feeling so I could process it all when I got to a safe place. I thought about the signage on the highway and how there are no markers to indicate that this foolishness was happening below the highway that was built on top of all of this pain.
As we arrived at the Devil’s Half Acre and the site of Lumpkin’s jail, I find it hard to believe that we are still fighting just for the truth to be told and not glossed over. I thought about how prestigious some burial grounds in this city are seen as sacred, like Hollywood, and the burial site of my ancestors has been a place of contention because it forces Europeans to look at the demented, inhuman cruelty of their ancestors.
Today, I challenge my European, Caucasian, White friends to have the difficult conversations with your community of friends who are challenged with thoughts of racism, with fear of losing their perceived power, and the thought of being better than another person because of the color of their skin. Nothing is going to change until we do. And we will never change as long as we believe we can’t trust one another to have some extremely hard conversations, tell the naked truth, and still love and respect one another as the human race. Today, I call the name of Delia Garlic, a slave who was interviewed in the 1930s who at least 100 years old then. I honor Momma Ginny, my 3Xs great grandmother, Momma Tamar, my great, great grandmother and all of our lineage who came before and since them. Today, love one another. We are to love the Lord with all of our heart, and all of our mind, and all of our strength; and our neighbor as ourselves!
Take real good care of you!