Response: July/August 2020 Issue

Responsively Yours: We Are Not Helpless

Responsively Yours: We Are Not Helpless

United Methodist Women members have talked about, learned about and worked to address racist attitudes and institutional racism for a long time. We know that racist personal beliefs, cultural incompetence and prejudice hurt people of color and do not reflect God’s love. Far too often, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” is something we teach children but not something we try to bring to life through our actions and policies as adults.

Our efforts to improve our understanding by reading, listening and participating in workshops are important. Our commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to address the sin of racism is fundamental, and our work with others to make changes in the church and in our own organization must continue. However, during this time of pandemic, we have seen and heard in excruciating ways that racism and the systems that support it are killing people of color all across our country. We must do more, and we must do it urgently.

Half of all COVID-19 cases in the United States and almost 60 percent of deaths have occurred in disproportionately black counties, according to a recent amfAR study. This is closely correlated with the high rates of pre-existing conditions that create vulnerability to the virus and active bias in the health care system in terms of testing and treatment. These pre-existing conditions, in turn, correlate with limited access and inadequate health care, poor educational opportunities and the perpetual stress of living in a racist society. We have witnessed this racist reality in the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and in the official responses before news of what occurred went viral. This is systemic. Everyday life in the United States is unsafe for African Americans.

Centuries of racism directed at Native Americans has also resulted in COVID-19 rate spikes above the national average on multiple reservations. How can multigenerational families in small homes without running water socially distance or wash hands frequently? The need of the Navajo Nation is so great that Doctors Without Borders has mobilized response teams in the United States because the current health system is absolutely inadequate. Asian Americans face vandalism, aggression, bullying and hate crimes as those in power scapegoat Asian countries in lieu of taking responsibility for our own role in the spread of the virus.

The United States is an unsafe place for people of color. This is something we must see, believe and change. Our majority white institutions and leaders have created these systems to benefit people considered white. White people must act with persons of color to make change: Put aside disbelief in the testimonies of discrimination. Support Black-led organizations in your community working for criminal justice reform and police accountability. Engage with the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race and the church’s racial ethnic caucuses on shared objectives. Sign up for action alerts at Yearn and pray and work for radical change in our country, and do so urgently. Do not become numb to the steady drumbeat of these terrible stories that reveal hard truths. We are not helpless. We can work together to make justice and flourishing available for all. May we see and believe that this is the work that would glorify God. Let us do justice, love mercy and walk humbly in this time.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 7/7/2020 12:00:00 AM