Last week, I watched news coverage and commemorated virtually my solidarity with those who commemorated the 1963 March on Washington, for jobs and racial equality, with a 2020 March on Washington protesting racial inequality. On August 28, 2020, thousands flooded the streets of Washington, D.C. once again to protest racial injustice, but with the added demand for police reform and to proclaim that Black Lives Matter.
Fifty seven years after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his “Dream” of the Beloved Community before our nation, we stand in the same spot demanding not only racial equality—but the right NOT to be killed by those sworn to protect and to serve. In the midst of a pandemic, they came—masked and risking their lives to bear a wide variety of messages—calling for justice and equality with persistent reminders on signs and on their person—that human dignity applies to black and brown bodies too.
While many of the inequality issues of both the March in 1963 and the March in 2020 remained the same, there were some important differences. The most evident was the significant diversity of the mostly young protesters. In addition, the theme that they chose, “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” might seem provocative, but it bears an image of truth about racism in America. Racism is the “knee” that systematically “chokes” the life out of black and brown people—economically, educationally and actually every aspect of life. Systemic racism can literally cost them their lives.
Whether America will more effectively acknowledge and address the entrenchment of systemic racism in our society this time, is still an open question for me. However, I do feel that the national and global consciousness of racism is in a place it has not been before. We are at a place where real change is possible, but not without uncomfortable and difficult dialogue and change.
Fifty seven years and counting—as a 68 year old Black woman, as a religious Sister, as a Dominican Sister of Peace—I often ask myself, how do I feel about this continuing struggle for human dignity? This may seem like an easy question, but sometimes, it is not. Certainly, it is a given, that I stand with those seeking justice and peace. But many times, to quote the recent words of former First Lady Michelle Obama and countless others, “I am frustrated and tired.” Especially, when I hear of more violence and yet another shooting of an unarmed Black person by police. Or, when I hear the obvious lies and promotion of violence coming from the highest office in America. The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. Then comes the reality check.
I can always count on God to provide a reality check. It comes in different ways and sometimes, I wish it would come much sooner—but it comes. It comes in the form of hope, like an adorable picture of a baby sporting an indelible truth on his hat and his shirt. Or, it comes in the form of the 12-year old granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing in the very spot her grandfather stood in 57 years ago, talking about justice and speaking truth to power. Sometimes hope comes in the realization that the diversity and youth involved in the struggle for justice today, is indeed, a sign of progress. Hope came last week in the form of a peaceful march by diverse peoples to Washington, D.C. to commemorate earlier struggles for racial equality.
In whatever form God chooses to inspire me with hope during these times, I am grateful. How does God inspire you during these times?