This month marks the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans being forcibly brought to North America. In August of 1619, “20 and odd” African men and women landed at what is now Fort Monroe, Virginia. This landmark arrival began what author and theologian, Jim Wallis, calls America’s original sin. “The language of ‘America’s original sin’ helped me understand that the historical racism against America’s Indigenous people and enslaved Africans was indeed a sin, and one upon which this country was founded. This helps to explain a lot, because if we are able to recognize that the sin still lingers, we can better understand issues before us today and deal with them more deeply, honestly, and even spiritually—which is essential if we are to make progress toward real solutions.”
Clearly, America’s relationship, and response to, race is still quite problematic. Headlining news in the past week: the firing of a NYPD officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, for using a department-banned choke-hold that led to Garner’s death; the firestorm surrounding the NFL’s partnership with entertainer Jay-Z - whether this was all about money or can this partnership make a difference in the league’s social justice efforts; and, California passing “Stephon Clark’s Law”, imposing tougher standards on law enforcement in the wake of Clark’s killing in 2018. This is just in the span of one week; and, is, in many ways, a microcosm of what happens every day across America. Put bluntly, we have a lot of work to do on the issue of race.
So, to address the fact that this sin of racism is ever-present in America today, how should we respond? As people of faith, we are to confront sin by repenting. Contrary to popular myth, to repent is not simply to apologize. Repentance is recognizing the wrong; and, making a turn in a different direction-taking a better path, finding a better way. You may ask, “What can I do in Broomfield?” Well, you can start with a show of solidarity and reconciliation: This Sunday, August 25 at 1pm MST, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church will be tolling its church bells, along with churches all across the country, for a National Day of Healing, remembering those first enslaved Africans landing in America 400 years ago.
Although a small show of action, this could be a moment causing a ripple effect, sending out waves which may propel us to more fully live into our ideal that all are created equal. I hope to see you on Sunday, as we take a step toward becoming what Dr. King called beloved community.