Most of us at Shalem do not pretend to understand the profound pain and trauma that our Black brothers and sisters experience continually as a result of systemic racism, both today and for decades and centuries. At Shalem, we commit unwaveringly to honour the lives of George Floyd and so many others who have lost their lives in anti-Black racist violence, and to tracing, understanding, and dismantling systemic racism. Black lives matter. Because all of life matters, we need to say explicitly that Black lives matter, because until now their lives have not mattered.
Most of us at Shalem occupy spaces of White privilege. Until we address our privilege, we confess that this commitment is shallow and even arrogant. We no longer have the privilege of remaining ignorant and dismissive of the concerns of our Black brothers and sisters. To begin to become meaningful allies, we commit to start by confessing, listening and lamenting. And then changing.
We confess our own indifference to the sin of systemic racism, and to its effects on Black people, Indigenous people and many other people of colour. We confess too our own inclination, despite our position of privilege, to somehow design our response to primarily meet our own needs.
We strive to listen to the experiences of Black people whose voices have been marginalized and silenced by systemic racism. We strive to listen to and acknowledge the truth of people’s stories. As one example from among many Black writers and commentators, we are transfixed by the stunning symphony and choral performance called Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, composed by the brilliant African American composer Joel Thompson and performed by the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and an all-Black male chorus. The symphony, in a reference to Christ, highlights the last seven last words of seven Black people recently killed by police. We have only begun to listen.
And we lament the many violent deaths of Black people but also the fear and trauma that the Black community routinely experiences simply because of the colour of their skin. We seek ways to lament with those who have been victimized. As people of faith, we acknowledge that it is in the context of shared lament that the hope of the Gospel, the hope of reconciliation and justice, emerges.
Finally, in the spirit of repentance and hope, we commit to rigourous evaluation of how we work, and to changing our practice as a result. Through what we learn by reaching out to the Black community and examining our practice, we commit to bridging the gap between our own unconscious bias and an improved posture and practice that is rooted in justice, fairness, affirmation and dignity for all.
Black lives matter.