Lent is a time of reflection, a time for self-examination. Am I the person I want to be…that God wants me to be? What are God’s expectations? The rules are clear: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul” and “love your neighbor as yourself”. It’s simple, isn’t it? Jesus modeled the way. Then why is it so hard? Why has this love of one’s neighbor eluded our great nation? Why aren’t we living into God’s call to love one another?
Sacred Ground has been a poignant and provocative exploration of racial injustice in America. This class offers a deep, honest, and harrowing account of our true history regarding race. Sometimes racism is open and intentional, other times, sinister and hidden. While we all share in the pride and dream of America being a land of promise, this dream isn’t realized for all.
A perfect example of this was the GI Bill, which provided funds for college education and housing for returning WWII veterans. However, these funds eluded most Black returning heroes. Of the $120 billion the federal government underwrote in new housing for veterans, less than 2% went to non-whites. The reason: Black veterans were prohibited from purchasing homes in the beautiful suburban communities, developed for the millions of returning soldiers. Moreover, the promise of a free education for all veterans was only realized by 4% of our Black war heroes; a quota system limited access for Black students at most major colleges and universities. How ironic that the Black veterans who fought so bravely against Hitler’s racism returned to face intentional racism directed at them!
As I reflected on this injustice, I realized that this policy continues to have lingering trickle down effects today dividing communities into the have and have nots. The promise of the American dream, that fills our hearts with pride, remains elusive. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his “I Have A Dream Speech” nearly sixty years ago. And yet today, the Black Lives Matter Movement is still calling for justice, healing, and freedom for our black citizens. Why can’t we live into that promise and look past skin color, hair texture, and eye shape and see that we are all alike inside?
The point is not to feel paralyzed with guilt, but to be enlightened and inspired to learn, to grow, to listen and seek to understand; to be receptive to discussing these difficult issues, and aware of unconscious stereotypes, micro aggressions, white privilege, and institutional and structural racism. Then we can begin the work of healing and reconciliation so we can grow into that promise of the American Dream.
To meet and mingle and grow in relationship with one another motivates us to empathize, advocate for, and empower those less fortunate. I see that with the inner city girls I mentor, and we see it with SLYC. But I can do better and dig deeper.
This class has been an impetus for lots of soul searching this Lent. I recommend it to everyone.
- Liza Eberling
Have you ever learned new aspects of history that have challenged your previous understandings? How are you being invited to consider new perspectives about the American Dream?