My sister Eunice spent much of her growing up years — as did I and all of my siblings — in a Black community in Washington DC where my parents started an Amish-Mennonite church. Living in Tucson, Arizona as an adult, she met and married a Black man. Now she and her husband live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, our parents’ home area.
She sees lots of good in this mostly rural, mostly white, mostly Christian community — but also experiences a lot of negative attitudes or ‘just don’t get it’-ness from white people around her when it comes to racial justice. With protests across the country and an election featuring a race-baiting president coming to a head this summer and fall, she wanted to speak out. I helped her write the piece below, which I’m posting on my blog with her permission.
My grandparents grew up Amish, and I was born into the Amish-Mennonite church in rural Lancaster County. When I was one, my parents moved to a low-income Black neighborhood in our nation’s capital and started a church.
So, though I am white, I grew up deep in black city life in Washington DC. I ran freely up and down the sidewalks of the neighborhood projects and sang “To be Young, Gifted and Black” in assemblies at the public elementary school. While my pigtails and plain dresses made me stick out, I was proud to be a part of the Black experience during the civil rights era as Martin Luther King, Jr and others sparked a national movement for equality and racial justice.
Fast forward to today, and I’m married to a Black man. We met in Arizona, and he moved with me ‘home’ to Lancaster County twelve years ago. There’s so much to love and appreciate about being back, but I am deeply troubled in this year of 2020.
Recent national and local events involving police and the Black community show clearly that the work of the civil rights era is not finished. However, I still see too many people around me questioning the outcry from people of color and the continued need for racial justice.
To put it bluntly, I’m struggling being surrounded by good folk who just don’t get it. People who think — I love God, I love my country, and there’s a few people of color in my church or family or workplace. Iisn’t that enough? No, it is not enough.
Lancaster is in many respects a very Christian and conservative place. The larger white faith/Evangelical community (and more recently many in the Amish-Mennonite church) has for years been turning its back on the core justice message of Jesus’ gospel, trading the love of God for power to advance a political agenda that runs against the breadth and complexity of the Christian tradition. And it has come to a head recently under a President who blatantly encourages racial division and white nationalism, and deepens rather than heals the wounds left by our nation’s long history of racial evil.
Believe it or not, when I was young I memorized the entire Biblical book of Proverbs with my parents encouragement and the promise of a new bike with a banana seat and cool basket on the front when I was done. Wisdom is a precious and much needed characteristic in leadership and, from my perspective, it is sorely lacking at the top in our nation.
I implore every civic minded fellow Lancaster Countian to search your heart and to pray, and vote, for leaders with the conviction to speak out loudly against systemic racism and inequality. At the very least, withhold your vote from one who fits the description of the fool in the verses from Proverbs that I memorized as a child, and whose house is far from wisdom.
And for all you Veggie Tales fans, be sure to search YouTube for the viral video on racial injustice made by Phil Vischer, one of the creators of Veggie Tales. Being informed about our nation’s dark racial past is required knowledge for being able to choose a brighter, more just future.