Our Nation Stands On Ashes

I had planned a simple, short post to call your attention to the Ignatian Solidarity Network and its new group blog, Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey toward Racial Justice.  Prof. M. Shawn Copeland is the one contributor I know and in my experience, anything she writes is worth reading. [The initial post is already up, and it's a lovely, powerful and direct meditation by Kaya Oakes.  Sample: "We burned this country into existence, forged it from fire, nourished it with blood. Our nation stands on ashes."]

At least, that was my plan before Princeton University Prof. Imani Perry was pulled over, arrested, patted down, and handcuffed to a table, apparently because of a three-year old parking ticket.  Memories came flooding back when reading her Facebook post and her tweets about the incident—memories of Perry as a soft-spoken, luminescently intelligent teenager, with a deeply rooted, broadly inclusive empathy for others.  The closing words of her statement are characteristic of her humility, sense of perspective and well-banked fire for justice:

I must admit I am somewhat ashamed that my story will get more attention than those of others who have experienced things far worse that merit our response. But I hope against hope that the attention my story has received, and the fact that many people will give me the benefit of the doubt because of my profession, my small build, my attachment to elite universities, and because prominent people will vouch for my integrity and responsibility, can be converted into something more important. I hope that this circle of attention will be part of a deeper reckoning with how and why police officers behave the way they do, especially towards those of us whose flesh is dark.

Living as we do, in this time and place, there's no Lenten repentance that is complete without a conscious, active and repeated turning away from America's original sin of racism.

Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

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