When you see me, who do you see? A Black face?
Someone who evokes rage or fright,
Undeserving mercy, grace?
When you see me, who do you see? Blind and white
and deaf; loath to step into shoes
of your pain, color, grief or plight?
When you see me, when will you see that I am
a child of God blessed by the Lamb?
I have been rocked back and forth this year by the violence in our country over race relations and a serious lack of understanding, grace and communication between us all. To be frank, it reminds me of another decade.
In the 1960s we faced a country horribly divided by racial tension. We watched in revulsion scenes on our televisions of federal marshals escorting young, black children into white schools for the first time while being spat upon by angry white housewives.
We saw Black folks being attacked by dogs and fire houses, arrested for sitting at a lunch counter, and heard about the murders of three young civil rights workers. And at the end of 1964, the first Civil Rights Acts passed, which outlawed discrimination in voting and segregation in schools, at work and in places that served the public.
In 1968 we watched the Freedom March – a five-day walk from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama where thousands of non-violent demonstrators of all races faiths walked to the steps of the capitol building. State troopers attacked the unarmed marchers with tear gas and billy clubs. We mourned the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and two months later of Bobby Kennedy. The second Civil Rights Act was passed which outlawed discrimination in housing.
I cannot, even now, get those images out of my mind when I see Black men shot down by police or when I view disturbing videos of police officers clearly out of control. And I don’t understand if just and righteous police officers can wound and capture a terrorist in New Jersey, why it’s not possible, with 3-5 officers present, arrest a man of color without a fatality – particularly those who are unarmed, who have their hands in the air or who are already on the ground.
We need the courage to have public discussions because this is not about one man or woman – a possible offender or a survivor of racism or a police officer. It is about our justice system which does not apply the same justice toward all.
I reached out to my friend Lilka Raphael, a sister in Christ, to ask if she would engage in this discussion with me. Because while I can sympathize and step into her pain and frustration for moments in time, she lives it every day. Because Lilka is a Black woman with a Black husband and two sons for whom she worries each time they walk out the door. And she said, “Yes.”
So beginning next Friday, Lilka and I will begin to write letters to each other, begin to ask and answer questions, begin to talk openly about our own perspectives, our responses, and our hope. Because we each derive hope through Christ, and we each see all our brothers and sisters as clay molded in love by our gracious Creator.
We pray you will look forward to our letters, read them, and engage with us in conversation to create healing and reconciliation in this online community and in your own communities.
In love and prayer,
Susan Irene Fox and Lilka Raphael