Tag Archive: immigration

When #BlackLivesMatter, when #BlackandBrownLivesMatter, and when #AllLivesMatter

We really missed Pastor P___ at the interfaith breakfast two weeks ago. He has a powerful spirit and he’s involved in EVERYTHING in our community. And I was looking forward to hearing him talk about the Black and Latino clergy group that meets to talk about their shared commitment to one another’s communities, both under assault.

But Pastor P____ had to be with family. The night before, his mother-in-law had died at the border at the hands of a Coyote, a smuggler of immigrants.

We grieved, but I don’t know how many Americans grieved with us about another victim of the US-Mexico border. And I wonder how much Brown lives matter in America, even though Brown labor fuels the American economy.

yeshua

Yeshua by John Bonifacio Moreno

In a faith community celebrating resurrection, I am not sure my community really wants to see a Brown Jesus rise.

 

Walter Scott shouldn’t have had to be famous. He shouldn’t have been chased and killed and framed. Unlike Pastor P____’s mother-in-law, we will all know his name soon if we don’t already.

In his Easter sermon, Rev. Osagyefo Sekou said that the blood of Michael Brown might ultimately be our salvation: we might find redemption in creating a world where no more Michael Browns will be slain. But today, unable to watch the footage of the hunting and killing of the father of four, I wonder whether that feels as unlikely to Rev. Sekou as it does to me.

In a faith community celebrating resurrection, I am not sure my community really wants to see a Black Jesus rise.blackjesus66

 

On Good Friday, I joined a worship/public witness in front of the courthouse and jail. We prayed ten stations of the cross, recognizing their intersections with the cruel treatment inflicted on Black people and Black communities, joining with the whole #ReclaimHolyWeek community. We chanted, “In Jim Crow America, the body of Christ is Black.” The leadership and coordination was mostly although not all Black. One of my sheroes from the Black Friday 14 personed the megaphone so we could hear all the speakers. (I participated in communion, offering the blessing over the cup.) And one of my favorite pastors led the opening invocation. She is proudly Black (and proudly queer) and she is fiercely committed to advocating for the dignity of her people.

And she said, “Black Lives Matter.” And she followed it with “All Lives Matter.”

Which is a controversial thing to say within the movement, because “All Lives Matter” is usually used to reject the campaign that says “Black Lives Matter.” And because until we live in an America that acknowledges that all lives will matter WHEN Black lives matter, we still have a long way to go.

But my radical and prophetic sister in Christ said it.

Because it was Good Friday.

And because salvation is for all of us.

And those of us gathered already knew that in America Black Lives don’t matter as much as White lives. And most of us also know that the American economy relies on cheap immigrant labor and forced prison labor so that Black and Brown output matter even while Black and Brown lives do not.

And we knew that we gather to worship a savior who rejected that kind of paradigm, and that is part of what landed him on the cross.

And we knew that all of ours souls are at stake because systemic racism misshapes all of us.

 

I wished in that moment that all of my brothers and sisters who are hurt and offended by the Black Lives Matter campaign could have seen what I saw and felt what I felt in that moment: that part of the Black Lives Matter movement is done for the salvation of everyone, saving us from the fear of Black people we are trained into in order to keep us divided, saving us from broken relationships where we cannot fully know one another and therefore can at best imperfectly love one another, saving us from a militarized police state where the people who join the police force to serve and protect us are trained to view many of us with suspicion and fear, saving us from not being who God made us to be.

 

I used to love that oft preached Good Friday sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a’comin’.”

It doesn’t feel like a Sunday world right now. It does not feel like a world ready to embrace a risen insurrectionist any more than it can embrace a Mexican woman longing for family and hope long before she is strangled at the border, any more than it can embrace a Black Coast Guard veteran and father of four long before he is shot for no reason.

The only consolation I find as a person of faith today is that while in a faith community celebrating resurrection, I am not sure my community really wants to see a Black or Brown Jesus rise, He rises nonetheless. And despite my heartbreak yet again, I see Him rising in us.

May we be an Easter people, a people of the resurrection for all people, because Black and Brown lives are at stake, and because that means that everyone’s life is at stake.

A Family Divided: the hard part of the immigrant story (a reflection on seeing “Documented”)

I was making small talk with one of my cousins on a visit to India maybe 10 years ago.

“Did you ever think about moving to the West?” I asked him. He’s a doctor in a very remote, very poor village where snakebites are the most common cause of death.

“Never,” he answered promptly and enthusiastically. “When I was young, I would lie there next to our grandmother and she would weep each night about how much she missed her son.” How much she missed my father.

My mother (left) and grandmother (right)

My mother (left) and grandmother (right)

 

My father’s immigration story is not completely unusual. He grew up in a small village, the youngest of three children. When his brother and sister had both started families and it became clear his sister’s family would need some financial assistance, his brother raised the money for my father to go to a western university and earn money to send back to the family in India. When my mother married my father, she contributed her income to the same cause without question.

My parents’ best friend in England tells stories from before I was born about how my mother would only buy carrots if they had the tops on, which their friend found odd until she realized my mother would use the tops to make carrot top curry to give them an extra meal so they could send more money back home.

I grew up wanting for nothing, but we didn’t live comfortably by middle-class American standards (I earn less than my parents did but live much more lavishly today than when I was growing up).

 

My grandmother knew all of this. She knew why my father had moved away, and I know she was grateful. I am really proud of how my cousins today are all flourishing, some of them doing things that give back to the community (including the doctor in the remote village and another cousin who works for the government’s pollution control division). I know my grandmother was proud, too, and I know she was grateful for my father caring so deeply about his family, and I know she loved my mother and appreciated how she cared just as deeply about his family. And she wept every night to my cousin when he was a boy about the son she loved but rarely got to see.

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