Winnetka Walk Against Racism - June 6, 2020

Remarks by:

The Rev. Jeff Braun, Senior Pastor of Winnetka Congregational Church

Sisters, Brothers, Friends,

This is a compressive time. An historic time. A time of profound loss.

Uncertainty.  Sorrow.  And pain.

COVID-19 has forced us to eschew the very human contact that we are wired for, disrupted countless plans and milestones, cost 42 million American jobs, claimed over 100,000 lives domestically (another 250,000 globally), and caused us to fear the very air we share and breathe.

Into that already strained context, the centuries-deep reality of racism in America has, once again, asserted itself as a virus that both continues to infect our democracy and bar our ability to fulfill the divinely ordained ideals of liberty and justice—for all—upon which our nation is humbly yet boldly founded.

The murder of George Floyd in plain sight at the knee of a white uniformed police officer, with other officers cooperating, surely set off the latest wave of pain for black Americans and for anyone of conscience. But the current upheaval and cries for justice are not only about George Floyd. They are the progeny of a long, ongoing train of abuses and usurpations.

The overarching question pressing upon us is this: “How will we respond… what will we choose?”

It is OUR question: As individuals. As a society. As Americans. As citizens of the world. And, equally, as people of faith.

But it is also GOD’S question. And how we answer matters. Deeply.

Will we allow fear, enmity, and ignorance to win out? Or will we be guided by an ethic of love?

Will we confront inconvenient truths, undeniable inequities, and false narratives? Or will we condone privilege for some over equality for all?

Will we persist in this sacred work? Or will we find ourselves sincerely enthralled by the current headlines, only to relapse into passivity when the present news-cycle shifts?

Will we dare to make the rough ground level and the rugged places plain? Or will we default on the call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?

This is a compressive time. A tumultuous, painful, and enflamed time.

Much has been lost. And much hangs… in the balance. And that is precisely why—in what can only be described as paradox—this is ALSO a time… of profound opportunity. A sacred chance. To rise.  To change.  To heal.

To pro-GRESS. That all might realize and enjoy God’s blessings. Equally.

We must commit ourselves with mutual urgency and patience, knowing that addressing something as engrained and entrenched as racism in America will take sustained effort.

Even as we sincerely ask, “What can we do?”, we must beware our desire (even if only un-conscious ) to “do” something so that we can then wipe our brow and say, after but a brief effort: “There, I did it,” or “Thank goodness, we’re done”. 

For those of us who are white, we must accept the reality that a central part of what WE can do to help dismantle systemic racism may not feel like we are “doing” anything at all… or, at the very least, that it will feel like we need to do more or want to do something different… and less discomforting.

I speak of the need for me and anyone who identifies as white to commit to self-education, self-reflection, self-awareness, and group conversation about white privilege, white fragility, and the false seed of white supremacy that lies at racism’s (historic) and cancerous root.

As a Village, we must ask: What blindspots or practices do we have -- in our houses of worship, our government, our schools, our businesses, our housing practices, or our community, as a whole -- that make us less aware, less welcoming, less accessible and open to people of color?

This work will be neither easy. Nor speedy. But it WILL be... essential.

And liberating! No less for those who are white than for those who are black.

Because this is not a black problem.

It’s a human problem.

Because each of us is not merely part of God’s broader body.

We. Are. PART… of one another.

And when one part of the body suffers. We ALL suffer.

When one part or portion is diminished. We are ALL diminished. No matter how much we might deceive ourselves into believing otherwise.

The Spirit is calling.