Justice is what love looks like in public. Writer Cornel West’s words have been haunting me the last few weeks.
One of my frequent prayers is “God, may I be a channel of your love today.” Sometimes it’s more of a cry for help. “God, I need your loving wisdom to guide me to love today. I can’t do it on my own.” This prayer rises from the heart of my faith and theology: God is a God of love, and I believe actions of loving-kindness are the most important thing we do. Whether through simple friendliness to those I pass on the street, reaching out to someone in need, or giving patient attention in difficult situations, I want to honor others as beloved of God.
My prayer to be a channel for love has focused on individuals I interact with, but Cornel West’s words challenge me to a larger understanding.
Injustices happen to individuals, but injustice categorizes groups of people by such things as skin color, place of birth, sexual orientation. A person is no longer an individual but a category. When we stand for justice, we are not blind to our varied humanity, but we see and honor the uniqueness of each person. We want respect, fair treatment, a life free of fear for all people, regardless of categories. Love, wearing its public face, pours its energy into creating that reality.
My prayer to be a channel of God’s love has taken on new meaning as the world once again confronts embedded racism. The work against the sin of racism must involve me–if I am to be a channel of God’s love. Justice is what love looks like in public. I need to acknowledge the public, pervasive wrong of how our world has created categories of people who are automatically seen as less than. I need to help change this.
As a white, middle class woman, my life has not been limited by racial prejudice and injustice. I have not needed that extra alertness to danger for myself or my family as a basic life skill. If I decide on a road trip with my family this summer, I don’t need to plot a route with safety in mind. I have never been trailed by a suspicious security person as I shopped. As my white husband hikes the country roads near our house in his t-shirt and old backpack, his presence has never been questioned. Racism wears a variety of guises, both subtle and brutal, but I have not been required to pay attention to them simply in order to live.
If I want to be a public face of love, I must look at myself and learn how living in a world where racism flourishes has influenced me. I must be willing to pay attention. When my 13-year-old granddaughter sent me a link to her school project on environmental racism, she taught me. Last week I researched “redlining” and found an old map online that showed the official redlining of my town of Lancaster. More learning.
If I want to be a public face of love, I must never look away from the whole reality of other lives. When I see injustice, I must be willing to speak out and to bear witness in whatever way I can. I must be willing to do what is mine to do. I want to be a channel of God’s love through being for justice. How will you join me?
Suggestions for learning and doing appear on Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center’s website: https://pendlehill.org/support/news-and-notes/suggested-readings-on-understanding-and-addressing-racism-and-white-supremacy/#action and in this list: https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234.
Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream. (Amos 4:24)
6 thoughts on “Justice and Love”
Nancy, thank you for this encouragement. I don’t either know the full impact of racism on those who are the recipient of it here. I know how I felt in the villages in Botswana when I lived there many years ago, being pointed at and followed with stares and talked about and assuming that whatever words were being said were derogatory (though I never knew for sure whether that was true.) So, I only have a small bit of a sense of understanding.
Something I’ve been wondering about lately and don’t know how to do is to greet the few black people who live in my area when I see them in the grocery store or parking lot. How do I initiate a greeting that let’s them know that I am glad to see them? In the county in Maryland, in the DC area, where I lived before moving to Dillsburg, it was easy because white people were in the minority and everyone greeted everyone with a “hello” or smile. Here I don’t know how to do that without seeming false, somehow, unless we are face to face naturally.
If you or any of your readers have thoughts that would help me, I’d be glad to hear them.
Thanks again for your encouraging musings!
Yes, this is a time to support each other in this work.
Responding to your first reflection: In past years, I have lived in areas where I was the “minority” with a different skin color than the majority of the population. I was always aware that this was not my homeland, and that I was in a position of relative power and wealth. Those factors invalidated my experience; I know I can’t understand what it is like to receive racist comments and be relatively powerless.
Does anyone have a response to the question Ann poses?
Nancy, thank you for your heartfelt blog offering on justice, racism and the categorizing of people in our country. It is so timely as we navigate our way through the moral reckoning before us. It’s not just about looking around us but also looking within us. I am also looking at what more I can do to support justice and love. Thanks, again.
Dear Joe, I’m glad this reflection spoke to you. I know you have been an active worker for peace and justice, and, yes, there are always other ways of being the public face of love. Nancy
Nancy, a fine post on action as well as words in anti-racism.
The link to 75 Things (what white people can do) — lots to grab onto there.
Thanks, Dodd! Yes, I found that “75 Things” list contained a lot of opportunities.
Peace, my friend,