I am still trying to process the events of Monday evening in Washington, D.C.
Peaceful protesters were assaulted to give the president and his entourage a “clear path” to an historic Episcopal church. I believe the Episcopal priest who was on the patio of St. John’s who witnessed and experienced the tear gas sent to clear their area. I believe her testimony that she saw persons being shot with rubber bullets.
In the halls of the Senate, one senator defended the use of force to clear the path to a photo op as justified because, “That is the church of the presidents.” No. That church and every Episcopal church is erected to worship and serve God and all of God’s people. Its proximity to the White House makes it a place of worship where presidents and their families have chosen to worship. But it is the property of the Diocese of Washington, D.C.
The language of domination by military force that permitted and sanctioned that assault is the articulation of an attitude which is the core of why people of conscience now march, rally and protest. No. White Society and all the structures of that society do not have a divine right to dominate our brothers and sisters who are different from “white male norms.”
White society has no divine right to tear children from parents and place those children in cages because they seek asylum and refuge. White society has no divine right to better education, access to healthcare, access to no hassle voting, access to affordable housing, access to credit, food security, and the simple ability to take a walk, a jog, a drive, a nap at home, a picnic in the park, bird-watching – without some white vigilante calling the police, or worse.
Systemic racism is the sad fact that being white provides significant benefits that are so much a given of everyday living that massive numbers of our human family are clueless.
At the most fundamental level, racism is a violation of every major faith tradition that proclaims all human beings as created in divine image. The failures at every level of our lives and structures to live in this truth, is an assault on God’s divine gift of life. The rhetoric, actions and policies of domination have no place among people who truly seek to serve God.
Fr. Elaine Silverstrim
Episcopal priest, retired