There is so much I could write about this incredibly full week in America. To focus, I have been praying about “what is mine to do” (an idea I first heard while working with Fr. Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation). During one of my morning walks, I got a response, in the form of a scriptural reference and a challenge.
The scriptural reference is Luke 8:1–3:
Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
These women were funding a revolution. Not only that, these women had power and connections because they had money. They used those connections to support Jesus in his peaceful revolution. Joanna, in particular, had privilege because of her connections through her husband; in essence, while Chuza served as a government worker, Joanna was funding the revolution.
Here’s the challenge. My grandson (a person of color) posted a photo of a poster on social media that said, “If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do during slavery, the holocaust, or civil rights movement, you’re doing it right now!” In the midst of a barrage of images, this hit home because I can remember, in earlier decades, thinking that of course I would do grand things. But now I see how little power I really do have. In other times, I would be out protesting and standing vigil (as I have done at the Eloy Detention Center here in Arizona). Now, because Henry has chronic lung issues, it is not wise for me to be protesting in close quarters and risking bringing home COVID-19.
So, I have been praying, and reading, and agonizing—and my response is this: It’s time for me, and for all of us with money and white-skinned privilege, to start funding the revolution happening right now in America today (as part of a wholistic response; more on that below).
My white skin has enabled me to have and hold good jobs. My word has been trusted. My white skin probably got me in the virtual doorway for a lot of my editing contracts. I am the descendant of southern American whites who owned slaves that might have been sold to them by my husband’s French-Caribbean ancestors who trafficked in slavery. My many privileges got me these opportunities and these funds, and it is time to redistribute the wealth.
Here is my commitment: Henry and I will dig into our savings account to fund organizations that are supporting those on the front lines of this revolution. Yes, that’s right: We will pull from our nest egg, our “safety net,” to support those who have no safety and no nest egg. Every time my grandson or my daughter-in-law walk out of the door of their homes, they risk their lives, simply because of the color of their skin. That’s not safety. The median bank account balance in the US today is only $7000. That’s hardly a nest egg.
Do you have more than $7000 in your savings account? Join me in funding the change we want to see in the world. Redistribute some of your savings account. And no, I will not tell you where to invest for a more equitable future for this country. I invite you to do the research yourself. This will teach you about what’s not working for our fellow Americans and what they—and thus we—really need. Possibilities I’m considering include organizations that are educating white folks on the realities of racism today and slavery’s potent legacy. We can fund community organizing for legislative and accountability measures and policing reform. We can support civil rights organizations that work for concrete changes in our legal, political, social, employment, and educational systems. Do the research. Get the education. None of us are too old to stop learning.
I will also say this: Slavery is what came from putting the economy ahead of people 200 years ago. American businesses today are doing the same thing when they force employees back to work in the midst of a pandemic. Anyone in this country who has a savings account balance under $7000 is a modern slave of an economic system that puts wealth ahead of people. Let’s begin seriously funding economic transformation and turn this broken system upside down. (And yes, I say this well aware that I am encouraging the destruction of my own safety net.)
I will also clearly state here that giving money is never enough by itself. Too many privileged people think they—we!—can just “throw money at a problem” and consider our work done. The women who followed Jesus didn’t just support him; they were out there with him, following him around the countryside along with the male disciples. Funding change must be part of the whole package of being the change we want to see in the world. If we can’t be out protesting, we must be having conversations, writing letters, challenging assumptions, and learning more of what is ours to do.
Will you join me? Will you share this message with everyone you know? Will you fund the support and development of an equitable Reign of God here on earth, and take your active part in being the change we desperately need in America?