I live in the country that is holding the highest number of children in detention. Some of those children came to this country unaccompanied, seeking safety from drug dealers and human traffickers. Others came with their parents, but were intentionally and forcibly removed from their parents at our border.
Where are they being held? Who is caring for them? Do they play? Do they learn? Do they have access to books and toys? Blankets? Are they warm enough? Do they get fresh air? What is to become of them? How long will they be held in detention?
The first articles about how we’ve reached the top of this list, a few days ago, suggested that there are over 100,000 migrant children in detention centers in the United States. Newer statistics correct that to fewer than 70,000. Shall we rejoice that the number is not as high as we thought? Shall we sigh now, and look away?
I don’t know what to do with this. I am overwhelmed and disempowered, like so many of us are. Risa Paskoff, a Lancaster advocate for children, said at a meeting on Wednesday evening that she always wondered how people in Germany could go about their daily lives, planning what restaurant they were going to go to, while knowing about the atrocities their government was committing, and then she realized that she was talking about where to go out for coffee, knowing that our own government is detaining children, often separating them from their parents. So she took a trip to the border. She’s going again, with boxes of supplies for people being released from detention. She is choosing not to look away, choosing to step into the story.
At the very least, don’t look away. Listen. Learn. Speak up. Stand up. Take on the work that comes your way. In Lancaster, a group has formed, called Wing. We want to see our community work even more intentionally to welcome immigrants. Along with more direct actions and advocacy, we are stopping every day at noon, for one minute, to pray or meditate or visualize, to focus on the needs of children and others who are seeking safety here, to send out hope for change. Will you join us? (I am in class at noon on weekdays, so I will do my focus minute at 11:56, after lunch and before my next class comes in.)
Gratitude List: 1. Rest 2. Fresh Perspectives 3. How the light comes in, breathing in the light 4. Bridges 5. The advocates, the ones who speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves
May we walk in Beauty. May we live with justice, and mercy. May we walk humbly.
White Supremacy is an ancient and virulent virus that has infected this country since its founding. It began with a “Manifest Destiny” that wiped out any humans that stood in the way of the European conquest of the New World and continued with an “all men [sic] are created equal” that didn’t recognize all the humans as human, ignoring the inhumanity of brutally enslaving thousands of African people.
White people, we are all infected to some degree. We have absorbed it in the images we have seen, the media we have consumed, the education we have received, and even the sermons we have heard in our churches. It’s everywhere. It’s no longer slavery or wholesale slaughter of the First Nations. It’s no longer explicitly codified in apartheid-style laws. It’s subtler, more insidious.
Oh, it’s also obvious. The woman on the video spewing the n-word and saying she’d say it again. The white people calling the police on black and brown people for simply existing in public spaces. The police officers who shoot first, shoot pre-emptively, and walk free of the murders they commit. And the epidemic (yes) of white men slaughtering people with their weapons of mass destruction–we have reached the point when it’s no surprise to discover that the madman with the AK-47 is a self-avowed White Supremacist.
And while we have been searching for ways to combat the virus within ourselves and our communities, the president and his cronies in the halls of power in this country are feeding the virus, adding to its virulence and strength. From his tweets to their shrugs and tepid explanations, the virus is being fortified and given room to bloom. When frat boys pose in celebration in front of a memorial to a black boy killed for the color of his skin, when people sworn to defend and protect all people are serving up vileness and hatred on the internet, when our nation is caging brown children and people of faith say they deserved it, when a raging and disaffected youth posts a manifesto about race and then picks up a gun to kill as many people as he can before he goes down in a blaze of non-glory, it’s not only the virus itself that is to blame. It is those who spread and nourish it.
I call out the president of the United States for spreading the virus of white supremacy, for normalizing it, for egging on his weak-minded followers to vile and horrendous acts. He and his enablers must be held accountable for their words and actions.
I’m not letting myself off the hook. I’m not letting you off the hook. All of us whose skin gives us privilege have a responsibility to deal with the virus within ourselves, within our communities, within this nation.
If you are white, I urge you to join me in several actions. First, let’s look inside and keep opening doors of awareness. It’s never enough to simply call out the racists out there. We need to look at the racists inside ourselves. When we feel defensive or self-righteous, those are clues that we are holding on to our own privilege in unhealthy ways. Examine. Repent. Let go. Grow. Move on. Repeat.
And then, let’s find one thing, or two, or twenty, that we can use to identify white supremacy in clear and articulate ways. Let’s call it out. Post it on our social media. Speak out. Open conversations. Teach our children. Spread the word. We need to kill this virus.