I was unexpectedly brought to tears during the ingathering music for yesterday’s Zoom UU church service. I knew it would be a service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and somehow, when the strains of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” washed over me in an angelic piano solo, I was overcome.
Maybe it was the photo I’d just seen of the Capitol mob flashing white supremacy signs; maybe it was my co-presenter’s talk over the weekend about searching for the histories of black people’s erased lives – no birth or death records, no written documents, nothing. Maybe it’s the reading and discussing I’ve been engaged in during an 8-month course called “Soul-searchers” investigating white supremacy, not the obvious kind, but the kind that lurks in every white person’s psyche, even mine, even yours. Whatever the reason, the lyrics reverberated in my head – I am tired, I am weak, I am worn – and I wept.
How can I not ache for all the suffering I have been oblivious to, for my inadvertent but no less damaging part in all of it?
My minister misspoke when he was introducing a hymn. “Let us listen together to ‘We in Freedom Cannot Rest.’” The actual title is “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest,” which is also true. But his mistaken title applies even more aptly to white people like me.
We who live comfortably, who are accepted without question in any roadside market, any seat on the bus, any school, any restaurant or neighborhood; we who are presumed innocent, whose mistakes and bad moods are gently forgiven; we who see faces like ours all over newsstands, movie screens, and social media; we who are welcomed, who belong, through no merit but the color of our skin; we, in freedom, cannot rest.
Change must happen, and we must work for it. We are the warp and woof of the tightly woven fabric of this problem. We cannot defer to others to pick apart the threads and reweave our society. It’s up to each of us.
Happy Birthday, Dr. King.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.