We ask for blessings. God bless our family. God bless our marriage. And most of all at this time of year, we ask that God bless America. We ask for blessings because many of us have seen evidence of God’s favor in our lives – financial resources, educational opportunities, safe homes and communities. We believe that we are the elect, that our comfortable lives are the result of God’s favor, confirmation that we and our families are saved. But in claiming all these blessings, we profoundly misunderstand the true nature of the material possessions and privileges we believe are our own.
What we white people believe are the gifts of God are actually the bad fruits born of a bad tree – the sapling of white supremacy imported from Europe and planted in this new orchard. Our ancestors – biological and metaphorical – took this land from the people that inhabited it, subjugated it with labor forced from those we brought here, and cultivated it with the work of those we lured here to exploit. That at times our ancestors also endured some harsh conditions and some difficult labor does not excuse us. All of what we stole added immeasurably to the wealth we amassed collectively, and it contributes directly to the comfort that we middle class white people enjoy today.
We committed all of these sins because of our fear of the unknown. I believe all sentient creatures have this fear. What if I search for food or water and can’t find any? What if I can’t find a safe place to protect me from the storm? But we humans are the first creatures who have the capacity to take action against this fear. Thus was born the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. From this action came the assembling of power under chieftains and kings. But the system of white supremacy is a way of coalescing these actions and desires into something new. Our ancestors created this system to justify taking from those whose skin was a different shade than our own, arguing that since they were less people than we were, we could rightfully take what was theirs. And through our actions today, our active promotion and our passive acquiescence, white supremacy continues, and benefits continue to accrue to us.
I do not know if God exists, but if they do, I do not ask for their blessings. We have had enough of blessings. Instead I ask:
- God, please grant us wisdom to understand fully the crimes we have perpetrated and continue to perpetrate.
- Grant us conviction to speak the truth of these crimes.
- Grant us empathy to feel their effects.
- Grant us strength to support and amplify the power, intelligence, and grace of those from whom we took.
- And God, please grant us the grace to feel humanity – of those we tried to harm as well as of ourselves.
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