By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn on February 26, 2021
Earlier this week, President Biden invited us into collective grief and remembering for those people—more than half a million—in our country who have died of COVID-19. He called us to grief and remembering as a step to healing, but also as a way to purpose. We all know that the President is no stranger to purpose born of grief.
I would have also appreciated a more particular call that acknowledges that while “we have to fight this” as “one people,” some of our people are bearing a disproportionate burden of the virus, of the economic impact of the pandemic, and of militarization, policing, and incarceration. Remembering this is the only way to true healing for us as a nation.
Out of our collective remembering of a devastating history and reality of injustice for people who are Black in the United States will arise healing and purpose. As we take stock of the impacts of the pandemic, we are presented with the stark reminder that Black people have shouldered higher COVID mortality rates, the devastating economic downturn experienced by so many, and have borne the brunt of militarization, policing, and incarceration. As with so many other tragedies that befall our collective community, we are forced to bear witness to the fact that Black people face deadly disparities during times of unrest and uncertainty.
In addition to collective remembering, we must commit ourselves to self-examination paired with decisive action. We cannot reflect on the solemn statistics that cry out to us about the suffering of Black people without being moved into action. Collective action to address the toxicity of anti-Black racism will only serve to uplift all people of color and groups experiencing oppression and move us toward collective liberation.
President Biden has a prime opportunity, and the power, to put us on the right track to addressing racial injustice. Here are three small, but potent, ways the President can act to repair, restore, and re-imagine the nation we live in:
Repair our systems and institutions so that people of color are more fully included and reflected in the decisions that shape our lives
Our representative government never has been. But some of Biden’s choices for leadership in his administration give hope that he understands the importance of people who bear the greatest burden of disaster and disparity effectively creating solutions and advancing change. More representation in his administration will lead to our ability to repair systems that were not built for fairness, equality, and opportunity.
Restore this nation’s potential to be a country of fairness, equality, and opportunity for all by facing and deconstructing white supremacy in all its forms
The impact of the dominant narrative in U.S. cultural and political history is the erasure of the experiences of the peoples native to this land and the people whose stolen lives and labor created—and continue to create—wealth for others. The erasure endures not only in stories, but in the institutions that control access to resources that make life and liberty possible. A reckoning with this history is beginning. Our President should take steps to publicly acknowledge the impacts of white supremacy culture, denounce that culture altogether, so that we may…
Re-imagine what our communities can look like when we ensure fairness, equality, and opportunity for all
The health and security of our communities will only be possible when we shift funding from policing, prisons, and militarization of our borders and our schools toward investing in thriving cities and neighborhoods to create fairness and inclusion. The Breathe Act is an ambitious re-imagining of the law that needs the President’s support. This revolutionary piece of legislation would defund racist systems of oppression such as law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, and the military, and invest those resources into communities, education, housing, healthcare, environmental protections, and jobs.
As we come to the close of Black History Month, I was struck reading words from Mary McLeod Bethune as she remembered her colleague and mentor, Carter Goodwin Woodson, the historian who called for the first Negro History Week in 1927:
With the power of cumulative fact he moved back the barriers and broadened our vision of the world, and the world’s vision of us.
A collective remembrance, inclusive of stories that have purposefully been erased, is a powerful action that makes possible the repair, restoration, and reimagining needed for racial justice in the United States.
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!
Image Credit: iStock – Aja Koska