Our Quote of the Week spotlights something we can do on a regular basis as a step towards dismantling systemic racism: bring the topic of race relations into our sacred spaces. Discussion alone will not help us overcome the moment we are in. But with sustained effort and by matching our words and our actions, we can begin to effect systemic change.
In 1963, an interfaith group of leaders from around the country, including Sargent Shriver and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gathered in Chicago for the National Conference on Religion and Race. It was during this conference that Sargent Shriver spoke these words. He referred to laws and government as "coarse and inefficient instruments for remolding social institutions or illuminating the dark places of the human heart." He then called on "those institutions whose task it is to teach moral values" to take an active role in battling discrimination and hatred.
Waiting to have discussions about race only when there is a moment of crisis, and then dropping them once "order" has been restored, is not going to change the patterns we are seeing. We must reflect on and discuss the topic of racism in our sacred spaces every day: in our churches and in our temples, but also in our classrooms, at our dinner tables, and in all of our intimate settings. We must be especially intentional about doing this in environments that are predominantly white and where we have perceived racial bias or casual racism. We must be vigilant about bias within ourselves. We must listen to the voices of those directly affected, and we must allow ourselves to be moved to action as a result of these conversations. We must not wait for violence to erupt, or for someone we care about to be publicly threatened and humiliated, to have these conversations, and we also must not let these conversations subside when order is restored -- because our current notion of order is just not working for too many of us.
In 2020, we have watched our communities of color be disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19. We have also seen African Americans be threatened and brutalized, many on camera, by civilians and law enforcement alike. The most recent violent event, the killing of George Floyd, has sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage that hopefully we will not ignore. Whatever has made you uncomfortable in this moment, the loss, the violence, or the protests in the midst of a pandemic, we invite you to listen to the voices of those who have been directly affected by these events. And we invite you to channel your energy towards uprooting the causes of these injustices.