As we approach the holiest of weeks and journey with Christ through suffering and resurrection, let me offer a reflection on solidarity.
If one member suffers, all suffer together... 1 Corinthians 12:26
We are experiencing much hope with the ramped-up vaccinations and more people finding safe ways to crawl out of the actual and metaphoric COVID tunnel. At the same time, we're exhibiting old and “normal” behaviors at the epicenter of induced human suffering. These behaviors reveal some of our self-destructive ways as a country. I see violence thriving in three arenas, when we use the right lenses.
1. Violence against specific communities through racialized, xenophobic, and other discriminatory lenses,
2. Violence against anyone through militarized police-shooting and mass shooting-lenses, and
3. Violence against vulnerable communities through the economic-disparity lenses.
The unholy trinity of chronic violence in our country is not a new diagnosis. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made this connection before his assassination. When Nived and I stood at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis earlier this month, I realized afresh that the bullet that killed King was trying to eliminate God’s dream of beloved community for all of us.
Let me take a quasi-deep dive into racialized violence in this piece. The escalation in frequency of attacks on Asian American-Pacific Islanders during this pandemic has drawn our consciousness to the insidious toxicity of prejudice, scapegoating, and hate against people of Asian descent. Over the past year, we have heard of many overt and covert projections of anger onto members of the Asian American community. As a church, “we suffer/stand with you” if you have been impacted directly or indirectly by acts of anger. You are not alone. We also stand against any member of white, black, or any other community when they act violently against our Asian American siblings.
Why is this important to us? It is important because, ultimately, we are all different parts of the same body. We all belong in the body of Christ, our safe and spiritual home. When we hurt each other don’t we only hurt ourselves? After all, we are one body. We must never forget how we responded as a world when we knew little about this COVID virus last year around this time. Remember, for the most part; we set aside our self-imposed distractions, we followed guidelines to protect each other, discovered a brand-new vaccine type, and even invited competitors to partner in vaccines' mass production. It's pretty simple. We tend to be more equitable in our productivity when we are more unified in our outlook towards each other.
So, what's behind this hate directed toward Asians? Is there more to triggers and tropes like “China Virus” or “Kung-flu?” Let’s examine what's behind these. All people of color share a history in our country where the sickness of white supremacy justified unspeakable violence against native peoples. Native Americans were made dispensable through the “Doctrine of Discovery” in the name of God! White superiority continued the same kind of violence against our African siblings with the added inhumanity through slavery and later on through Jim Crow and incarceration laws. In this iteration, the sickness dehumanized, owned, and dispensed bodies of African-descent people. We have had anti-Hispanic bigotry from our country's founding times. We can see the same continuum of violence directed toward our Asian American-Pacific Islander siblings. Such violence is not new in that the sickness goes back to the Page Act of 1875, with an explicit connection between Misogyny and racism, leading to the anti-miscegenation law preventing a white person from marrying a “negro, mulatto, or Mongolian.” Such legal and normalized discrimination led to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
FDR’s move to Japanese Internment Camps built on this foundation of simmering hate towards Asian immigrants. The “model minority” identity further churned out a degree of hatred from other racially discriminated groups. Such inter-racial strife is a move from the old playbook of divide and conquer. The most recent attack on Asian women in Atlanta reveals an ancient connection between terror and misogyny. Overall, it is not accidental that some political leaders insisted on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus.” Strangely, they exposed a trope of this one virus's variant manifesting its destiny seemingly in different structural forms throughout our nation’s history. It is time to name the myth of this ancient lie that white people are superior to anybody. Jesus and the early church contradict this lie very clearly. No, in Christ, there isn't any such categorization but the truth that we are all one, meaning equal, in Christ--Galatians 2:28. We have no room for superiority in the church and hence, in society.
We ask for heightened vigilance in all our communities to unite at this time. We urge all allies to communities of color to join in acts of grace and abundant generosity toward one another during this time of heightened fear in our Asian American-Pacific Islander communities. Racism is a particular sin that has corrupted our knowledge systems, our national identity, our institutions, and our very soul. It’s time to correct this wrong. Please consider joining this gathering of Episcopal Asians and allies for lament, healing, action and solidarity in response to the rising tide of violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders, tomorrow at 1pm. The Racial Reconciliation, Healing and Justice committee has also scheduled our next book study and discussion with the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. I invite you to join us! You can find more information here.
We call upon all the baptized to reach out to each other as traumatized and hurting communities, be they native American, migrant, Black, Latino, White, LGBTQ, and all others, with hospitality and grace. We all experience the trauma of separation, guilt, and shame in ways. Remember, we are children of a loving God. We are also survivors of a global pandemic. We got here because we helped each other. As we affirm our conviction in One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism, let us prove our identity as One Beloved Community. Let us, as One human Family with One heartbeat, raise each other to our full humanity in Christ! Out of many, One. We rise and fall together. Let us, therefore, suffer together and raise each other to our full humanity.
In Christ, who suffers alongside all who suffer, this Holy Week!