This is a true, bittersweet story. I have a friend whose adult daughter -- both a brilliant musician and person of deep faith -- directs a multiple choir program, involving a large number of children and youth, in a largely white Protestant Church. Recently, in solidarity with current concerns for racial justice, the church placed two large signs on its lawn. On the first sign were the words ____ Church is committed to fighting against systemic racial injustice. The second read, "I will be part of the solution." Not long after the two signs were erected, someone came during the night and scrawled across them "It's okay to be white." Early the next morning, a church member notified my friend's daughter that the sign had been defaced. After sharing this information with the staff, she began removing the graffiti from the signs. As she worked at the job, someone who did not know her took her picture and posted it online with the message that a "white woman in her 40s" was seen defacing the signs of the church. Of course, it went viral. An article about her dastardly action appeared in the local online newspaper. It took a letter from the church to set the record straight.
This story, told to me by the woman herself, illustrates the demented nature of the times in which we live. It has a humorous side to it, of course, reminiscent of the Bard -- "What tangled webs these mortals weave." But the darker side is the perverse nature of some frightened white person who just could not tolerate the church's stand on racial justice. Of course, it's OK to be white! That has been a given in our nation's psyche from its beginning. No one calling for racial justice believes otherwise. What is seriously in doubt in the minds of people like the one who defaced the church signs is that it's OK to be Black, too. The affirmation, Black Lives Matter, has not yet been established in either the psyche or the systems of justice in our nation. That is what the church was trying to communicate. Its congregation was calling passersby to join them in the struggle to rid our nation of a system of racial injustice now. Its second sign challenged us to be part of the solution.
The irony of our current miasma is this -- the movement toward full justice for Black Americans, whose lives have been demeaned and discounted through the whole of our nation's history, will benefit all of us. Since my space here is limited, I will cite but one example. The right to vote knows no color bounds, except in the minds of white reactionaries. Suppression of Black votes is, as it has been for centuries, the objective of white racists. But the tactical measures of voter suppression infringe on certain segments of white society, too -- the indigent, the infirm, the uninformed, and those of us who want to be a part of the solution.
Thomas Reynolds lives in Bridgewater.