Written and submitted by Rev. Lynn Meadows-White
May 15, 2020
The tragic story of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery has hit close to home for me – literally. That’s my hometown – where I grew up. I am from St. Simons Island and Brunswick is our “mainland.” My mother, sister, niece, and nephew live in Brunswick. My nephew, Jacob, is 24 and white. Ahmaud would have been 26 last Friday, and he was black. Both graduated from Brunswick High School – Ahmaud in 2012 and Jacob in 2014.
I felt sick when I heard it – outraged and angry that this could happen yet again. As the mother of a white son, I wondered, again, how it must feel to be the mother of a black son. To worry every time he goes out the door if he will come home again. Do I worry about that for my white son? Yes, but not because of the color of his skin. I worry about car accidents, not people with guns chasing him down when he goes for a jog.
Jacob and Ahmaud went to the same school, grew up in the same town. But my sister doesn’t worry that the color of Jacob’s skin will put him at risk. My sister and I have what Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud’s mother, doesn’t have (besides a living son): it’s called “white privilege.” We didn’t ask for it or earn it. We just have it because our skin is white. It gets us things we hardly even know we have. It opens invisible doors for us and protects us and our sons from suspicion. She or I (or our sons) could walk through a house under construction (which I’ve done many times) and no one would raise an eyebrow.
I know we don’t yet know everything that is to be known about this case, but I know I feel sick in my heart that Ahmaud Arbery is dead, that Wanda Cooper-Jones doesn’t have a living son, and that there seems to be no good reason for it. And I would be wrong just to blame the two white men who are currently in the Glynn County jail, though I deplore what they did. I have to look at myself and have the courage and humility to ask: How do I participate in systems of injustice that lead us to think differently about people because of the color of their skin? In my mind, the question is not: Am I a racist? That’s too easy. The real question is: How do I (intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously) perpetuate racism in any of its obvious or subtle forms?
That question reminds me of another question that I hope sounds familiar to you. It is one of our baptismal questions. We ask it of parents of babies, we ask it of teenagers, we ask it of adults – anyone who is making a commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ or to raise their child to become one. The question is this: Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do I? Do you? I certainly hope so. If we don’t, we can’t exactly claim to be followers of the One who challenged the religious leaders of his day (people like me), saying: “Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith.” (Matthew 23:23)
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That means injustice in Satilla Shores in Brunswick, Ga. is a threat to justice everywhere. Everywhere. Lord, have mercy on us – all of us, everywhere. Forgive us our sins – all of us, everywhere. And teach us to love – all of us, everywhere.
Resisting with you,
Rev. Lynn Meadows-White is the associate pastor of Pierce Chapel UMC in Midland. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.