When Psalm Thoughts and Prayers Are Just Not Enough
O, Source of Being, how long, how long will we abide this pernicious virus that lurks in darkness waiting to suck out the breath of life from us, leaving us gasping, crying out. A disease so devastating that it can strike you down in the middle of the day when you are walking by the way or batter its way into your safest places and take you out while you peacefully sleep in your own bed. How long must we wait for a cure that surely must already exist? Is there no sheltering place powerful enough to keep us safe? Perhaps it is precisely because of our social distances that this vile plague has been perpetuated for, oh, too long. What vaccine can protect us from the devastation and loss that this virus so cruelly leaves in its wake? What will it take for us to truly awaken to the terrible toll of pandemic proportions that has been inflicted upon us, generation after generation?
But, O, Scourge of our Being, you are Invisible no more! You are at last unmasked, stripped naked for all to see for the contagion of racist hatred that you are. A contamination so potent as to rob our world of beautiful, precious souls, black and brown, lost to your consuming, insatiable flames of hate that are devouring entire communities.
But know this: From today on, we will not let you hide anymore! Not in the brutality disguised as law, not in the microagressions of polite society, not in the subtle and not so subtle ways that you have infected the very institutions and structures of our lives. We see you and will, at last, shine the light of truth upon you; you, the ugly stain that has deformed the face of humanity, our humanity. You have insinuated yourself into the very fabric of society, hiding in plain sight, thinking that no one will notice. Now, once in the open, may your life blood—all the evils that feed you—be strangled by the full force of justice that will take you out just as you have cut down so many innocents. We cannot forgive you, base racism, but we can vanquish you only when we recognize that you exist, own your hold on us, and commit, with every fibre of our being, to extinguish your hateful flames that scorch our souls.
O, Source of Righteousness, let us rise up, rise up as one, to the true potential that you have implanted within us: To embody the very light of justice that you have called us to exemplify in our deeds in order to banish hatred, racism, and white supremacy from our world. Let us take action to educate ourselves and others about how to become anti-racist. Let us lift up our voices to demand change. Let us protest through peaceful means to raise awareness and draw that long arc ever closer to the goal of justice. Let us vote for leaders at every level who will work tirelessly with us to eradicate this poisonous virus of racism wherever it may arise. Help us unite our voices, O God, as one so that we have the strength and will to achieve this dream. For if we will it, it is no dream.
O, Source of Healing, send healing to the broken and suffering hearts of Your diverse children. May we soon come to realize that the antidote to racism already exists within us, as close as our very breath, as near as the beat of our hearts, the internal compass within each of us, pointing us always back to You, source of justice and equality, who has created each of us in Your image.
Please reach out to me if you would like to share how you are coping with these latest challenges.
Here are some book suggestions to add to your library to continue to educate yourself about these issues:
How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
The Color of Love by Mara Gad
White Fragility by Robin Deangelo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
A powerful article from The Forward: What We in the Black Community Need from Jews Right Now https://forward.com/opinion/
Talk to Your Children (courtesy of Congregation Isaiah in Lafayette)
If you have children and have not yet had a conversation with them about the tragic events of recent days and the long history that has led up to this moment, now is the time. Even young children can engage in deep conversations about fairness and how we should not judge by the color of our skin. Older children can learn from you that racism is real, that protest has long been an American tradition, and that we can not equate loss of life with loss of property. Teach them George Floyd’s name and that he deserves to be remembered. Here is a helpful resource: https://www.usatoday.com/
This is the statement issued by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the organization to which our Reform rabbis all belong: