The following is a response to recent events at Hudson High School, written by Pastor Mike Holwerda, Executive Pastor | Discipleship & Outreach.
Last week, many people got a voicemail about an incident of racism at Hudson High School. According to social media posts, this included the use of the n-word and references to lynching. This incident is something that happened in our backyard in 2019. As a white pastor and father to a black son, let me offer a few thoughts on how to begin to process and respond:
This wasn’t just bullying. This wasn’t just harassment. This wasn’t just teenagers being teenagers. This was racism. These were words and actions motivated from a long-standing twisted American narrative that white > all other colors. And even more so, they align with a long-standing American tradition of oppression and injustice to people with brown and black skin by people with white skin. Like any problem, if we fail to name it truly, we won’t really be able to start to fix it.
Before anything, let’s just be sad. It didn’t have to be this way, and actually, in its earliest history, Hudson was a city trying to make it a different way. Early leaders were adamantly opposed to slavery, traveling abolitionist preachers often visited the town, and in fact, it was one stop along the famous Underground Railroad (there are underground tunnels to this day under our streets!). And yet, sadly, here we are in 2019.
Lament is a way to process our sadness with God. There are two main parts.
The first part is an expression of pain. When we lament, we are crying out to God and at God. How did we get here? How can this still be happening? How much longer, Jesus? Why didn’t you stop this? These are the cries of a lament.
The second part is an expression of hope. When we lament, we affirm our trust in God. We affirm that He is our hope and our only hope. We don’t have the ability to fix it ourselves, and actually we are part of the problem. We need God to act. For the power to end racism doesn’t come from us, but through the peace-giving, hostility-killing, unifying work of our dark-skinned Savior on the cross.
So, before we run to action, may we stop to pray, stop to lament, and stop just to be sad.
- Lament the continued existence of racism in Hudson, Ohio, in 2019.
- Lament that experience of racism for that black teenage girl and her family.
- Lament the pain, trauma, and fear other black families will experience in Hudson.
- Lament our part in ignoring this issue.
- Ask Jesus to act, and do only what He can do, to begin to change hearts, our schools, and our cities to end racism.
Talk about it.
It may sound simple – but it’s really important. Talk about this with your friends. With your family. With your kids. If we don’t speak to change the narrative, it will continue to exist. Racism doesn’t go away with time. It starts to go away by talking about it. It may be uncomfortable, and you may not know what exactly to say, but the cost of silence is too high.
Here are a few things to talk about:
- All are equal. Every single person in every single skin color is equally and beautifully made by God and in His image. We are to offer love and respect to everyone equally.
- Racism is real. It is still occurring, and it’s wrong. We can’t afford to deny or minimize it.
- The gospel is big. It is big enough and powerful enough to offer forgiveness to those who do racist things and healing to those who experience those racist things. We are called to point both to Jesus.
- There is hope. Jesus helps us re-imagine something much better, especially in ourselves. We can genuinely become people and a city of love and not hate because of Jesus.
Don’t waste it.
Once you see and know something, you can’t unsee, and you can’t un-experience it. We have gotten an up-close look at racism in our backyard. We can’t unsee it or un-experience it. The first slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, and its impact has traveled to Hudson, Ohio, in 2019. Four hundred years is way too long. It’s time we stand up and say – not here. Not to my friends. Not in my family. Not at my school. Not my church. Not my city. It just might be the most significant way we make Jesus famous.
Are you interested in reading more?
The following are a few books for adults to read:
- White Awake by Daniel Hill
- Divided by Faith by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith
- The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
And here are a few books for kids to read:
- The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler
- The Color of Us by Karen Katz
- God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell
Questions? Please contact me at [email protected]