It’s All White and All Wrong

Written by Rebecca Branle, Ephrata Township. This piece was first published on Oct. 26, 2020 on Rebecca’s blog, basicallybeckyblogs. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

Thoughts Penned After Ahmaud

It’s a white people problem.

And yet that’s not how most white people talk about it. They speak in lots of “he should haves,” or “but she saids.” They point out imperfections. They pick out excuses.

We don’t own the problem, and yet it’s ours alone. Ours to fix. White hands pull the trigger. White hands choke, punch, kill. White guys wearing fancy ties make sure the white ones with their murdering guns don’t go to jail.

The problem is all white and yet it’s black mothers and fathers, and babies and teenagers and grandparents; it’s black people that carry the weight of our white mess. We put the onus on them to navigate our unfair world, where declarations of independence and equality only apply in certain circumstances. And we grill them. Them. Like it’s their job to justify why we shouldn’t kill them.

Ahmaud stopped to look at a house under construction, something I’ve done about a bazillion times in my life. This, they say, justifies an armed citizens arrest. “He fought back!” They say, aghast, gripping their chests. But do they ever wonder what they would do? How would they respond if two bearded inbreds followed them on a run. Demanded they answer to them. Do they obey all out of shape, armed strangers barking orders at them? They never ask such questions because to do so would be to draw an equitable line between their life and Ahmaud’s, would be to see Ahmaud as a person with a life worth living.

Video of the construction site shows several white folks doing exactly what Ahmaud did, white grownups and white kids, and yet they’re still alive. They were never hunted down. Never suspected. When asked why they suspect this is so, racists respond in either of two ways: those who don’t identify as racist, but certainly are, become uncomfortable, so they avoid conversation. Those who stand proud in their hate laugh in the face of the facts. Because they just. don’t. care.

How do we make them care? WE, the awake white people, the tired and angry and sick-of-being-so-damn-disappointed, white people, have to make them care. We have to engage them. We have to pry their eyes open. We have to close the door, nah, slam the door, to hate speech. And make them afraid to open that door ever again. Those white people are the problem. WE white people need to be the answer. It’s not good enough to be quietly enraged behind closed doors. We’ve been trying that for years now. Now we have to step up, step out, and start to demand change.

When I was 14, I had a go-cart. It was a zippy little thing and I was a full-on terror on wheels. I had all the confidence and entitlement of a young teenager and I ripped like mad through my quiet neighborhood. One day, not even a mile from home, I found a newly paved road. Sure, it was blocked with road closed signs, but that new blacktop looked fast. And I loved fast. So around the blockades I went and fast it was…until the police came. I was scared, thought about trying to outrun them, but my go-cart was for kids and it topped out at 25. The heat had me beat. They also had a blast asking me if I wanted to go to jail, and then following me, lights swirling, back to my house, where I was sent inside while they chatted with my dad.

It’s one of my epic childhood stories. One we tell often. My dad said he and the cop had a good laugh over the whole ordeal. Sure, I was told sternly not to ride my go-cart on public roads. I learned a necessary lesson, one that every teenager needs to learn because lord have mercy, imagine if all adults walked around with the entitlement of a teen. But we tell the story, and we slap our legs in laughter. There are no scars, only smiles.

But young black boys, playing with guns that are toys, not up to half the trouble I was up to, they’re underground, in caskets. Their mother’s are left to grieve and wait. Wait for white America to care. Young black boys, smoking cigars, are thrown to the ground, punched, and hit. When I was 14, I stole my father’s cigarettes and tried smoking them. Should I have been thrown to the ground and smacked around by an armed stranger? Should your child be?

But they don’t bat an eye, those white people. They refuse to look because the child they’d see isn’t white, so there’s no need for rage and maybe that doesn’t sit well with them, their lack of care. Maybe they don’t own their racism, they don’t look it, or the child, in the eye. But they feel it creep up on them, and it doesn’t sit well, it squirms and claws at them from the inside. So they look away. The chid is invisible. The brutality is never digested. Instead, they deflect. They grab one of those talking points the NRA has dangled above them like carrots.

“What about Chicago?” they whine. “Black people kill black people.” “Guns!” “Gangs!” Blah, blah, blah. But do they know the story of Chicago? Of Baltimore? Of America? I listened to a Story Slam by a young girl from Chicago, from one of those neighborhoods, and her words carried me far beyond the statistics, far beyond cold numbers and easy discrimination. She explained how you can dial 911, but no one comes. No police. No ambulance. And if they do come, sometimes it’s 40 minutes after you make the call. There are no trauma hospitals near her neighborhood. That’s why this young girl, this teenager, taught kids in her neighborhood how to triage gunshot wounds. Because when she calls for help no one comes.

So if no one is coming, what do you do? If you’re a parent, what do you do to protect your babies? If you’re a teenager and the only way to survive school (actually survive as in LIVE, not survive as in “Jimmy doesn’t like me back, whatever will I do?”) is to join a gang, what do you do? You do what you have to do to LIVE. That’s what you do. And the cycle continues. Because the help doesn’t come. It doesn’t come when you call 911 and it doesn’t come from the powers-that-be that love citing statistics but never dig deep enough to actually understand the struggle.

And how did we get here? It starts with the original sin: slavery. Oh, the holy roller white folks are panting hard now. Because they love to dismiss with their, “I had nothing to do with slavery. Get over it already.” But it isn’t over already. It won’t be over until Karen stops clutching her pearls and starts owning her role in it all. Because it didn’t end with the Civil War and it didn’t end with Brown Vs. The Board of Education and it didn’t end with Emmitt Till or The Freedom Riders or The March on Washington. It didn’t end with the Voting Rights Act. Because suppression didn’t end, segregation didn’t end, redlining was just warming up, and the Klan was still growing. Black tradespeople couldn’t join unions and couldn’t get ahead. The innocent and accused couldn’t get a fair trial. Wealth couldn’t grow, couldn’t flow, couldn’t be passed down to future generations. But those white folks, they shrug their shoulders. Saying they didn’t know…

And, really, isn’t that what this whole thing is all about? About not knowing? Never growing? Never letting go of our own white what-about-me-isms for long enough to GET IT. White privilege isn’t a cut on white people. It’s a social truth. It’s a responsibility. None of the above happened to us, therefore we have a head start. A head start in homeownership and familial wealth growth, and, you know, not being murdered for the color of our skin. But white privilege doesn’t have to be akin to white guilt. Not if we’re willing to surrender it. Not if we really believe in equality. Not if we’re unthreatened by building a bigger table, one with seats, and equal representation, for everyone.

Like James Baldwin said, like he so wisely said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Change has been a long time coming. But it’s time.

It’s long past time.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

About Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City

Twenty-five years ago, my wife and I moved with our two young children to Lancaster County and have come to love this place we now call home. I became politically active during these years. But my first call to social action came from the Catholicism in which I grew up. When I was a teen, the Church began a campaign to address poverty, violence, and the systemic inequities that cause these problems. The Church’s message— “If you want Peace, work for Justice”—has been a guiding motif in my life. While I no longer find a home in any religion, I still believe that love is the cornerstone of morality. To be loving in a world where the most vulnerable bear the brunt of injustice means that we must do the hard work of fighting injustice. Lancaster SPEAKS Up, and Lancaster Stands Up are the communities I need to sustain me in these efforts.

Braver Angels – Holding the Divided Country Together

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This LTE was first published on October 18, 2020 in LNP/LancasterOnline. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

In her Op-Ed on Sept 27th, Jess King pleaded with Lancastrians to find what we have in common for the good of the community. Currently, we are a community and a nation divided.  Whoever wins the presidency on or around November 3rd,  the other side will be upset – some may be upset enough to become destructive to themselves and others. As a member of Braver Angels, a national organization of volunteers, we have been attempting to bridge the divide between Reds (Republicans) and Blues (Democrats) with structured dialogues on a variety of controversial topics. We have prepared this statement and, if you agree, please go to the BraverAngels.org website and sign this letter.  

“At a moment of danger in this era of divisiveness, We the American People come together to speak for the Union. Some of us will vote for President Trump and others for Vice President Biden. But in this season of intense and legitimate partisanship, we the undersigned commit ourselves also to a higher partisanship – for the maintenance of our Union; for the importance of our shared civic life; and for those feelings of goodwill that Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

For ourselves and for all Americans, we appeal for the complete disavowal of election-related violence, calls for such violence, or excuse-making for anyone on either side who would commit or tolerate violence as a means of influencing an election.

In a time of growing separation, we pledge ourselves to words and deeds intended to help us find each other as citizens. We start with this commitment: We will not demonize or question the decency of Americans who vote differently from us. When we oppose their political views, we will say so with vigor, but we won’t castigate them as persons.

If in the near future we face a constitutional crisis in which our institutions cannot produce consensus on who is the legitimately elected president, we resolve to work together across this chasm for solutions grounded in the Constitution and guided by our democratic and non-violent traditions and our sense of shared destiny.

At stake in this contest is democracy’s North Star – peaceful political transition. It’s a time for opponents, but not for enemies. We the undersigned will work separately for what each of us believes is right, but we will also work together to protect the land we all love – to lift up American citizenship and the American promise in a time of peril and to find in ourselves the understanding that our differences don’t simply divide us, but also can strengthen and complete us.”

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and photos/pictures contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

The Black Box – Nuclear War Danger

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This article was first published on November 1, 2020 on the Lancaster SPEAKS Up Blog.

Have we forgotten about the black box that is carried by a special envoy accompanying President Trump wherever he goes so he can push a button to trigger the launch of a nuclear weapon? How scary is that? On a recent visit to a PPE factory Trump did push a button on another black box by mistake. Glad it was the wrong black box.  

The Trump administration has proposed a budget of 494 billion dollars to revamp our nuclear arsenal, including building a W76-2 new warhead. Also under consideration is starting up nuclear weapons testing, prohibited by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  What ever happened to the Start Treaty Obama signed with Russia ten years ago to reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons? Macron of France has reduced their nuclear weapons stockpile to 300.  Ours is 6500!

In addition to violating nonproliferation agreements, the Trump administration requests a 19% increase in our military budget, planning to pay for it by scaling back budgets for the CDC, NIH, and the World Health Organization.  

Who is our new enemy? Can’t be Russia, must be China. Whatever happened to the global war to defeat the Novel Coronavirus? So far, we’re losing that battle and the battle to arrest devastating climate change. 

I was frightened enough in the 80s to help Teresa Heinz Kerry start Peace Links in Pennsylvania, raising awareness. We women did it then. We can do it again in November, making sure Trump no longer has access to that black box. 

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

What The Bible Says About Abortion

Written by Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter. This article was first published on November 1, 2020 on the Lancaster SPEAKS Up Blog.

Many voters have a single mindset when it comes to the issue of abortion.  As a Christian, I oppose abortion. During my first pregnancy, I contracted measles from 4th grade students I was teaching. My physician suggested an abortion. I said no and still do say no. However, my experience as a pastoral counselor has shown me that in certain situations – abuse, poverty, rape, or incest – God will forgive a woman who aborts.  

Nothing is explicitly mentioned about abortion in the Bible. Neither did Jesus raise the issue.  But Church leaders throughout 2000 years of Christian history have had much to say.  The Didache, one of the early Church’s policies on social issues in response to routine abortions performed in Greco-Roman culture decreed, “You shall not murder a child by abortion or kill that which is born.” Just when during a pregnancy does a fetus become a child?  Both Bishop Augustine and Thomas Aquinas believed that a fetus became a human being after God breathed into a fetus, called quickening, 40 days after conception for males and 90 days for females. But since 2010, both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church have decreed that human life begins at conception.  Protestant, Anabaptist, and evangelical churches have differing opinions. 

More is at stake in this 2020 Election for voting Christians than positions on abortion.  Leadership qualities, for one, are vitally important, as are integrity, character, and democratic values.  Before you vote, carefully weigh these qualities when you choose our next president.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

The Death of Ricardo Muñoz is Not a Partisan Issue

Written by Eric Kearsley, Willow Street. This LTE was first published on September 17, 2020 in LNP/LancasterOnline. Reprinted here with permission from the author.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Ricardo Muñoz continue to emerge, but the following seems to be clear: 

  1. Ricardo Muñoz’s mental health problems were well known to his family and the community.  Family members recognized that he was in trouble and called for help that never came.  Can’t we all agree that our crisis intervention and mental health programs are inadequate? 
  2. The lone city cop dispatched to the scene was confronted by a man charging toward him waving a large knife.  Can’t we all agree that in those circumstances, a cop’s use of deadly force could be justified? 
  3. Some individuals responded to this tragic event with arson, vandalism, and rioting.  Can’t we all agree that this is not legitimate social protest, it is criminal behavior that should be prosecuted?

There are a lot of unanswered policy issues.  When a serious mental health issue is flagged, particularly by the family, what can be done to intervene quickly to ensure public safety?  What options for non-lethal force are available that could/should have been used in this kind of crisis.  

Let’s not make this another left-right argument where our debate is mostly focused on simplistic partisan slogans.  We all share the common goal of public safety.

©️2020 Lancaster Speaks Up. All rights reserved.

This website is maintained by the founding members of Lancaster SPEAKS Up. All writing and art contained on this blog post represent the thoughts and opinions of its author only.

About Justin Wilson, MD, Manheim Township

Justin Wilson was born and raised in Philadelphia.  He attended Central High School and graduated in 1994.  After attending Hampton University for two years, he transferred to Temple University in 1997 and graduated with a B. S. in Biology in 1999.  Justin went to Temple University School of Medicine and graduated in 2003 with an M.D. in Medicine.  In 2004, Dr. Wilson completed a Transitional Medicine year at Lehigh Valley Hospital.  His Diagnostic Radiology training was performed at Hahnemann University Hospital from 2004 to 2008.  In 2008, Dr. Wilson returned a United States Army commitment at Weed Army Medical Center, Fort Irwin, California and was discharged honorably in 2010.  Dr. Wilson worked for a year before receiving additional training in Advanced Body Imaging at the University of Southern California from 2011 to 2012.  Since 2012, Dr. Wilson has worked in Lancaster where he resides with his beautiful wife of over ten years and two lovely girls, ages 3 and 7. 

About Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb, West Lampeter


Dr. Mary Theresa (Terry) Webb has professional expertise as a certified pastoral counselor, with a marriage and family specialty, and is an internationally known speaker and author. As a ministry leader, Dr. Webb draws on her own 20 years of experience in a specialized mission field in over 8 countries to help churches and church related ministries deal with the addiction pandemic. Her website, www.marytheresawebb.com, contains some of her many books and programs. Her most recent books are Following Jesus in the Age of Trump and Costly Freedom. She cofounded Conservation Consultants, the GOAL Project and is a member of Braver Angels and Lancaster Stands Up. 

Dr. Webb holds graduate degrees and certificates from the University of Pittsburgh, Trinity School for Ministry, the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute, and the University of America. 

Inspiration

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent” 

Madeleine K. Albright

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” 

Audre Lorde

About Rebecca Branle, Ephrata Township

After graduating from Ursinus College, New Holland native Rebecca Class Branle used her pen to push products as a senior copywriter for QVC, and then as a creative director for a Philadelphia-area retail advertising agency. Today, she partners with her husband, Mark, to head up a small community bike shop known for its big heart. She writes to demand a kinder world for her three kiddos (who can recite every word of Hamilton), two dogs, and one very fat cat.

To learn more about Rebecca, visit her blog: basicallybeckyblogs.com

%d bloggers like this: