According to Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything. Whether you know the verses or the popular song, you know the words, so I won't take time to quote it here. I will, however, honor the sentiment. There is a time for everything, and now is the time for repentance.
Today is Juneteenth; a day I knew nothing about for most of my (nearly) forty years. On June 19, 1865 news finally reached Texas that the war was ended and that, two and one-half years after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the enslaved were finally set free.
Think about that phrase for a moment: set free. I hope that brings a terrible taste to your mouth and churning in your soul. Set free. The only way to be set free from something is to first be in bondage to it; can you comprehend that? A human being owned by another. A human being treated as anything but. It's despicable.
It needs to be asked, though, how far have we come in the last 155 years? Slavery as it was then is over, yes. But the structures that allowed it, the mindset that created a false hierarchy of race; one hundred and fifty-five years later and those remain.
I saw a post yesterday that said something like: no White person alive today owns a slave, no Black person alive today is a slave, so stop living in the past. I was stunned. And yet, I wasn't. Because I've been that person.
So, for me, today is a day of repentance, in honor of the Black/African-American community celebrating independence. Today, I celebrate with that community even as I recognize this Land of the Free is not so free if your skin isn't the right color or if you don't have the right education or if, or if, or if. No, I am not a slave owner. To my knowledge, no one in my family line was. But none of that matters. There is plenty from which to repent today.
I could do this privately. That would be a lot more comfortable, to be sure. If I did this privately, I wouldn't have to endure responses; but, I would also be able to remain hidden. I would be able to go on pretending and avoid the discomfort of not hearing "it's okay" (which, to be clear, I don't expect). I'm choosing to do this publicly, because it is the right thing to do, and I can no longer sit quietly.
I repent for years of living into being "colorblind" and believing that somehow was a good thing. God created the entire Body with great intention, all colors and all shades with purpose, and all created in God's image. I see you.
I repent for celebrating the wonderful arts shared from the Black community with the whole world, while not recognizing the lack of recognition given, not understanding the overtaking/assimilation without recognition, and not seeing the way it led to valuing only those who produced. You are more than music and art and dance and poetry. I value you.
I repent for believing it was enough to simply have Black friends, read a few books, watch some movies, and write papers about the Civil Rights movement. I recognize a motivation within me to somehow prove myself as being 'not racist'. I don't know when that began to change within me, but I thank God it did. I also know I have a long way to go. I will seek out information from authors and speakers and producers who actually know, rather than those regurgitating the White-washed history taught in schools and through generations. I am listening to you.
I repent for not acting. It should not have taken the continued murder of Black people to bring action. If more of us had taken action years ago, perhaps George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and way too many others, would still be alive. I will fight with you.
I repent for not speaking sooner or louder. I have privilege and have not used it for justice. I have backed down from arguments because I was scared or intimidated or just plain didn't feel like it, which I can do because of my privilege. I will speak up and I will lend my voice alongside of yours to right what is so badly broken in this country.
I repent for not being a better ally in the Church. Christianity has been too complicit in the bonds of racism. Many clergy and churches are waking up, but many still hide behind verses and generational teachings that founded the KKK. My silence is my complicity. You are a created child of God. I will celebrate your faith, worship with you, and fight to desegregate what is arguably the most segregated place.
I repent for actions that were belittling, dismissive, or otherwise harmful. I need and recognize your knowledge and wisdom.
I repent for conversations I avoided out of my own discomfort. I repent for conversations that re-traumatized or harmed or offended.
I will continue to repent as the Spirit shows me more. I will continue to grow and learn and act.