Bending the Knee

This powerful 18th century image became a symbol of the British Abolitionist movement in the 1800s

I write this knowing I am a white voice where people of colour need to be heard. I write this in the hope it helps draw attention to and amplify those voices, not to detract or replace. I write from a place of my own experience which is limited, and for anything I may write which is incorrect or unhelpful, I apologise. Discussion and correction is welcomed.

Last night, at 6pm, I knelt on my floor and prayed. For days now, protests have been ongoing, the media has been filled with the name of George Floyd, and his atrocious murder has shocked many. But not all. For some, George Floyd is yet another in a long list of those murdered, incarcerated, abused or intimidated because the perpetrators feel the colour of their skin allows them to get away with it. It’s sickening, it’s systemic, and we all have a responsibility for it.

When I was a small child, my Mother offered me a doll. One of those soft cloth ones with the large plastic heads and rolling eyes. Only I wasn’t happy. Because there were two of them, one pale and one dark brown. The story goes I couldn’t understand why I shouldn’t have the pair, so my Mother bought me both of them. I still have Cherry and Lindy now, and my own little girl tucks them in at night whenever we stay with my parents. Like me, she sees two beautiful little dolls, equal, sisters. Their colours are part of who they are, the little personalities we have given them. Their construction is the same, they share their clothes, often the same little pram as they’re pushed around. The fact one ‘is white’ and one ‘is black’ is a complete construct of adult society, and absolutely nothing to do with anything inherent in the dolls. When I took them to school for a show and tell day, and those around me were shocked I had a black dolly, that was when I realised there was something people around me were seeing that was problematic to them in a way I just didn’t understand.

I have typed and deleted so many words now about how we should ally, how we must learn, how white people need to check our privilege. But underneath it all, I guess I still just don’t understand. Why we can’t see the dehumanisation of people of colour dehumanises us all. How in treating others differently we deprive ourselves of the richness of multicultural experience. What it is that makes the colour of ones skin such a divisive issue when it’s the same skin we all share.

As humans we may be wired to seek the same and be wary of different. But we also have been blessed with brains which can override our basic impulses, and opportunities to learn better ways to be. Diversity in toys, books, media all help our children to grow up in a world where the societal constructs leading to racial inequality are chipped away, little by little. History is there to be learned from, not held to. If we as a society construct racial inequality, we as a society can tear it down too, if we really want to.

So I knelt, and prayed. Knowing on my own I can’t do a thing about America’s deep rooted racial issues, or those on my own doorstep. Knowing as a white person I am by birth privileged, in a way that is unfair, unequal and undesirable. Knowing that only through prayer, submission to others, learning, listening, promoting the voices of people of colour, and being open to the work of the Holy Spirit in me and through me, can anything change. I knelt and prayed knowing that for hundreds of years, many before me have bent their knees as a response to oppression, to express the hope for freedom, and in solidarity with each other. Are we not all humans, and brothers and sisters? Yes we are.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. Martin Luther King Jr

Peace be with you.

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