What happened in the Capitol of the United States on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 was shocking. It was disgusting. It was heartbreaking, but as someone has said, “A lot of things broke my heart but fixed my vision.” And I hope that is something that we can say about what happened that first Wednesday of the year. However, for that to happen, we cannot bury the memory of it. We need to remember and to reflect on what we saw. In particular, as many have pointed out, we need to reflect on why the security at that important place was so lax. We need to reflect on why those who stormed that important building on that significant day seemed to take it over so easily and then were allowed to walk away from the scene of their crime. And we need to confront the question honestly, “Was it because they were predominantly white?”
Since we all saw the sickening video of George Floyd being murdered by a police officer last May, white folks like me have confronted like never before the reality that others have known all too well for their entire lives—namely that how we are treated by the justice system is strongly related to our race with white people largely treated better than people of other races. To be clear, I never asked for this sort of treatment, but I have benefited from it nevertheless. I have been given a privilege that I in no way earned or deserved—white privilege.
Back in 1967, when our country was convulsed by violence and division, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, wrote a book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? And it seems to me that Dr. King’s question all those years ago is our question today. Where do we go from here? And the choice is the same that he outlined all those years ago. Will we choose to continue on the current path of chaos, or will we choose to create community? To be clear, the choice for community is the harder one, because in choosing to create community, we will need to acknowledge the truth that, if we are white, we have achieved part of what we have achieved in life to some extent because various systems have given us all sorts of privileges based on the color of our skin—from a judicial system that treats us better to a banking system that has made it easier for our parents and grandparents to buy real estate and to accumulate wealth to an employment system built on social connections that have been racially segregated. This truth is hard to acknowledge, but if we truly want to pull back from the chaos that was so clearly displayed on January 6, then the truth is that we have some hard work to do.
–Pastor Don Steele