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Racism is a Virus


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Our Father who art in Heaven…
Holy be your Name…
Thy Kingdom come…
They will be done…
On earth…

We say those words every time we gather together to pray.

Later in in this prayer, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray when they asked him to teach them to pray, he said, “when you pray, say”:

“Our father,” not your father, not my father but “Our father.”

He is both my father and your father, who loves us in spite of the virus of racism that killed thousands of people and caused the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and many others.

“Thy Kingdom” is what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “Beloved Community.”

It is coming but it is already here, it is the not yet but coming all the time.

My first encounter was being put in handcuffs by a young police officer on the Bronx River Parkway, between Bronxville and Scarsdale.

He took me into the station and locked my wrist to the desk to process my arrest.

When his supervisor came in, he saw my collar and asked who I was, and I told him.

The cop claimed not to have seen my collar, to which I responded, “you saw my color not my collar, you did not see my black shirt, you saw the color of my skin.”

I could have easily gotten him fired but that was not my interest.

What I craved was for him to see himself and me as part of the Beloved Community, as part of Thy Kingdom. As I used to remind the guys at Sing Sing, where I was chaplain, we are all “GC”: God’s children.

My next encounter was on a Sunday, when my son Haba and I were sitting in a car eating a cheeseburger, in front of Petrossian Restaurant on 58th Street and 6th Avenue.
Someone called the police that two men were breaking into a car.

Two cops, a young one and older officer, came.

By that time, we had left the car and were walking towards Saint Thomas Choir School where Haba was a student.

While the young cop tried to get aggressive, the older one said to him loud enough for me to hear, “he has the car keys in his hand.” He pulled him to the side and whispered something, which made them leave us alone and we continued our walk to the school.

There have been many encounters over the years, but to me the virus of racism and COVID-19 have reminded us that we are indeed “GC.”

What we do to each other, as Chief Seattle said about the earth, we do to ourselves. Of the three cops on trial for George Floyd’s death, one is White, one is Black and the other is Asian.

They could have been brothers, they are GC, waiting for the Kingdom to come, waiting for the Beloved Community, here and now.

When Amy Cooper called the police in Central Park, to report Christian Cooper, she did not see him as a bird watcher. The virus had entered her DNA. She could not see his name and that indeed he was named Christian Cooper.

They were indeed sister and brother; part of Thy Kingdom Come!

Both belong to the Beloved Community.

The virus tried to derail Steve McDonald, when he lay in the hospital bed for 18 months trying to recover from three gun shots fired by Shavod Jones. Paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak, he wrote on a piece of paper for his bride of nine months to read to the assembled press, “I have forgiven the young man who tried to kill me.”

What did he say?

Steve had been infected by another virus, the Thy Kingdom Come virus, the Beloved Community bug of GC, of love and compassion. He had remembered his mother coming home and telling him that she had heard Martin Luther King, Jr. talk about loving your enemies and loving those who persecute you and that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate can never drive out hate; only love can do that.

Encouraged by Father Mychal Judge, Fire Department chaplain, who happened to be covering Bellevue that day, Steve chose to forgive Shavod and they became friends.
Patti Ann could not believe what she was reading, but Steve lived on for 30 years in a wheelchair—and as he often reminded all of us.

“I did it for me, and the only thing worse than being in a wheelchair would be carrying around the hate, the anger, the bitterness.”

We are our brother and our sister’s keeper.

Yes, our Father is my Father and your Father, and no virus can change that, and we need to hear the voice of Christian Cooper and Steve MacDonald.

We need to see every cop and every kid as GC.

Yes, no pandemic can take that away from us because of who our Father who is …thy kingdom come, thy will be done…on earth. AMEN.

The virus we now face may be comparable to the virus of racism that has infected our hearts and our history of Emmet Till, Amadou Diallo, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, but don’t be deceived by the evil one.

The devil is a liar!

Love always wins!

This virus will not defeat us any more than will the vicious virus of racism. It will not win because we know who loved us to death, even death on the cross, and claimed victory.