Response #15 | June 24 | Coronavirus and Racial Justice
Hello beloved of God across the Episcopal Church in Delaware,
These last few months have been breathtaking in scope and historical significance. On top of the national and international crisis of COVID-19 and our state’s steady movement toward looser public health restrictions, our nation (and soon the world) erupted with the murder of George Floyd by policemen in Minneapolis. My heart has broken, time and again, with the pandemic’s toll on our families and care providers, and with every story of people suffering as their loved ones could not come to their bedside. My heart has been broken anew with the stories of the sinful repression of Black women and men, too often by the very people and institutions sworn to uphold justice, human dignity, and public safety. As I preached a couple of weeks ago, proclaiming aloud that “Black lives matter!” draws attention to a destructive fire in our nation that too long has been assumed to be the normal course of events.
I have heard from many of you, and I know your hearts break too. I cannot begin to count the conversations I have had with folks across Delaware just this month. There is a profound sense of the magnitude of this moment. The pandemic first opened our hearts to the reality that we, individually and collectively as a nation, must take collective action — like social distancing and wearing masks — not simply for our personal good but for the good of all of us. The clarion call for racial justice at the same time makes clear how long the nation has failed to take collective action — like refusing to accept unjust treatment of people of color — for the good of all of us.
I have to say, my friends, that I am hopeful in this moment. I do not despair.
While this coronavirus remains a very real and present danger, we are seeing from Delaware’s improving public health data that when we collectively do what we are supposed to do in the right way, we can significantly slow the spread of the disease. For example, Delaware’s hospital system has the capacity to handle serious coronavirus cases, and the percentage of these very serious cases is declining. The rate of transmission has slowed significantly since March as a result of proper hand washing, social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding unnecessary travel and public spaces, and everything that we have been doing to keep ourselves and others safe. The international research toward better treatment and a possible vaccine is promising. It is true and troubling that the spread of COVID-19 is on the rise in states that have not followed the same deliberate path Delaware has followed. If we get fatigued or complacent and let our collective guard down, our cases could spike again. But take heart: we know what to do. It is not a question of knowledge but of resolve. I have hope.
I have hope regarding racial justice, too. I am fully aware of the sheer size and complexity of the problem, but I also see a swelling resolve among folks — especially us white folks — to not let injustice stand unchallenged. People of every color are out in the streets protesting peacefully yet with tremendous energy and commitment. With our new-found skill with Zoom and online meetings, people across the state, nation, and world are forming groups to talk about issues too often swept under the rug and to coordinate action. It is a wonderful, if frustrating, sign to hear that bookstores are struggling to meet a surging demand for books like The New Jim Crow, a powerful revelation of how American institutions still today undervalue and demean people of color. (This book will open your eyes to the fallacy (lie?) that racism is only personal, not institutional.) The awakening is global, it is energized, and it is determined. You bet, I have hope.
I know these times are tough. The incidence of anxiety and depression are on the rise everywhere, and for good reason. I feel it myself, daily, and I don’t pretend it is not real. But in this age as in every age, our hope is in the unassailable power of the living God, who through Jesus Christ has shown us that there is nothing stronger in this universe than love. Everything that gives me hope for this world is saturated with the love of God, with love for our neighbors, and with love for ourselves. Embrace love like the power source that it is: raw, potent, and ready to shake the foundations of heaven and earth.