My friends and I were meeting last night to review a book called “The Help” set in 1960’s America, and we discussed the fact that although slavery is long gone, and the civil rights movement has achieved “equality”, being black in the US doesn’t always feel like being free. We all loved the book, as it depicts women’s ordinary lives and how black women and white women were living together in such different circumstances, obeying different rules and behaving so differently whilst still in the same town, at the same point in history, and all being mothers or grandmothers together. We found it disturbing, and shocking as well as heart-warming and educational.
The news of Tamir Rice’s death today is difficult to comprehend. It seems to us in the UK almost unheard of, that a young boy would be shot at close range by a police officer, or that school children would be carrying guns. The grand jury’s decision not to indite a police officer for the killing of an unarmed man (Michael Brown) is also difficult to understand and the two together is a national tragedy. To be “young, gifted and black, that’s where it’s at” according to Nina Simone, but for Michael and Tamir they are not going to be able to unravel their talents and gifts in this life and their brothers and sisters are in mourning.
I don’t think there are any easy words to provide comfort when someone’s life is taken “before their time”, but I do think as Christians we should be praying in solidarity with African Americans right now. Violence is not the answer, but there is a scene in “the help” when a young man comes into a prayer meeting and says “we need more than just prayer right now”. It doesn’t seem that different 50 years later.
I get a weekly verse sent through to me by the Salvation Army, and this week it was “Coming together is a beginning-keeping together is progress- working together is success” and “for where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”, so even though you and I are not together right now, I think God will be amongst us somehow if we share this moment of reflection.
The passage we studied on Sunday at church, was Isaiah 2, verses 1-5, which describes a vision of what it would like if all nations came together. I know black and white Americans are from the same country, but they have such different histories, heritage and cultural legacies, that it seems like they live in different places. So maybe we can think about these words as we read the news and watch the TV about these terrible times.
2 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.