Friday, July 24, 2015

Why It's Even More Distressing if Sandra Bland Committed Suicide.....

... and in no way relieves the police, jail, or other law enforcement officials who handled/mishandled and unlawfully stopped and arrested her from responsibility for her death. 

A colleague writes: I am haunted by the death of Sandra Bland.

I am haunted, and, is this the part where we are not supposed to say anything?

I think this haunting comes from our acknowledgment that this entire situation is a snapshot, a microcosm of the tragedy facing people of color, especially women of color.

Her life, of which we know the scantest outline: she went to school, went to college. She worked. She may/may not have had issues with depression. She was en route to a new job. She was attractive, and she was informed about police misconduct, and had even been actively opposed to it. She was not going to allow herself to be arrested for no reason.

And yet....

My mind went back this morning to years ago, when I was a La Leche leader. We had, in all seven years that I led these groups of moms, one mother who was a person of color. I remember her well. Her name was Iris, and her son was Alex. We puzzled over why more women of color did not attend, and indeed, did not breastfeed.But this was not unconnected with the reasons that many people of color did not go to the doctor, get regular breast exams (my friend Louise/ see "SCHOOLED" set me straight on this), did not have PCs at first, and in very many cases "appear" to have made decisions or failed to have taken actions which have led to their own demise or early deaths. 


We (being the collective white culture, which, "racist" or not, we can not divorce ourselves from) have treated them like neglected and unwanted step-children at best, and wonder why they have internalized the hate, the scorn for their bodies and their lives. NO! 

For me, it doesn't matter whether she committed suicide. In fact, that scenario, in my mind, is even worse. that means that, rather than go down fighting, that sassy, sure-of-herself woman who stood up to that cop, or tried to, she was broken down, who knows how... deprived of medicine, her cigarettes, her pride, her clothes, probably about to lose the job she'd come to start, plunged into some hideous despair born of everything that was engineered to deprive her of her dignity, her spirit, her self.

I am reminded of Tyisha Miller, the young Black woman in Riverside, California, shot to death while sitting in a car, unconscious, when they believed she "reached for a gun." She was tried, convicted, and found guilty... then executed, before she even woke up. We, the clergy, and the citizens, fought for justice for her. That was 15 years ago.

There is now a website. A hashtag. #sayhername. Tyisha's not there. But I am still haunted by Tyisha, who'd be in her late thirties now.

And I am broken-hearted at how women of color have been killed and have been mistreated, not only as individuals, but as an entirety. And, not just by white men, not just by law enforcement. By music, by women, by literature, by TV and films, so frequently and so blatantly, that it is those that survive that we actually notice.

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lucille Clifton

Thursday, July 23, 2015


My world. Kentucky

Mr. Coates:

Now that I have finished Between the World and Me, I am not the same person I was when I began reading it just three days ago. It's not a long book, and I could have read it in one sitting. I didn't take notes, and I didn't underline or highlight. I felt from the beginning that I was entering into some sacred, hallowed space, this letter that you had written to your son. I know you said in an interview that it was a literary device, and, being a writer, I get that.

But I also believe that your words came from the deepest, most honest and unabashed place in your soul.

You tell us what no black man has really told in quite this lyrical and personal way, at least in this time: what it means and what it feels like to be a boy and a man in the body of one who is born in America an African American.

But you do so much more than that. You will not allow us to look away from what we (those who are white, or as you say, believe we are white) have constructed for ourselves, a world that feels somehow safe, free, secure, assured, and predictable, in ways that your life, your sons life, and no person of color's life... even if he becomes President of the United States... will ever really feel.

I went, last night, to a discussion at an Episcopal Church in Lexington, KY. We were meant to discuss Thomas Merton's book, Faith and Violence, and his very late in life writings on Vietnam and on racism in America. Writing in 1967 and 1968, the year he died, Merton, like you, was brutally frank about why the "Negro" had every right to be angry, as he understood Malcom X, H. Rap Brown, and Stokely Carmichael to have been. He understood the agenda of the Black Panthers, and anti-white agenda. He didn't offer, as you do not, a solution, other than to suggest that "we must continue to treat our Negro friends as persons and as friends,... and it is to be hoped they will do us the same honor..... and we must continue to do all that we can ... to see that his human rights are guaranteed to him even when he may seem to be acting in such a way as to forfeit them in the eyes of a truculent and critical white society." It is remarkable that Merton wrote these words after the summer of 1968, a summer of uprisings and violence in the cities of America. (179)

But he did. And then he wrote: If Christianity is being discredited in the eyes of the Negro, that does not dispense us of our duty to be authentic Christians toward the Negro whether he likes us or not. (179)

I found, in these fifty year old radical proclamations, a partial answer. And in this discussion, with a mostly white group of educated, progressive if not liberal folks, we talked about Merton, and we agreed that his words rang true today.

Then one man said to the Rector who led the discussion, Please tell us where we go from here. I don't know where to go.

I think this is the absolute place your book leaves thinking Americans. Not only "white" America, but people of color who have become advantaged and have not given thought to the systemic issues that plague and perpetuate white privilege. It leaves us stripped of all of the masks shields, shelters and places to hide. It robs us of what you call "the mettle it takes to look away from the horror of our prison system, from police forces turned into armies, from the long war against the black body...." (Coates, 98) It strips from anyone who reads it with an open and honest heart, who reads it with God as their witness (even though you say you do not believe in God, you tell the truth, which plenty of people who say they believe don't, so.. you have integrity) "the forgetting.." the worst thing we participated in, the most horrible piece of this Dream, "because to remember would tumble them out of the Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world....I am convinced the Dreamers... would rather live white than live free." (143)

And then you tell your son that he won't have to be the one to to fix it because Something more awful than all our African ancestors is rising with the sea. (151)

It is here, in these closing pages, where I see and feel, not only the interconnected nature of all the oppressions, but the addictive nature of them as well. I see, too, that for those who listen, and feel this horrible emptiness, this guilt of ages of plunder and pillage that weighs upon us, and this choked cry: But tell me what can I do to fix it?

...the answer is, the same answer given to an addict who arrives at the place called "Surrender." The place where you are on your knees, because there is nothing you can do now. You have done enough. It's time to pray.

I don't feel sad. I feel sadly joyful. I feel elated to live in the world with you, and I pray that this new Gospel of truth will be heard. For like the Prophets of old, you are simply telling us what is to come.

Your friend, whether you want me to be or not,


Monday, July 20, 2015


 Mr. Coates,

I love the way your book begins.

Do not speak to me of martyrdom
of men who die to be remembered 
on some parish day.
I don't believe in dying
though, I too shall die.
And violets like castanets
will echo me.

Sonia Sanchez

In your interview last week on "Q," you said that understanding these truths, the ones you present in Between the World and Me,  is like understanding that we will die.

I am eager to see and hear how your book will be read by believers amongst the Black literati, for even there we have preachers, Christians, and those who ultimately believe, or profess to, that this world is not the only world.

But you, Mr. Coates, start from a radically different place. A precipice, if you will, more consistent with my own faith, Unitarian Universalism, because you state, early on, that your parents did not offer you the hope of religion: "My parents rejected all dogmas.We spurned the holidays marketed by the people who wanted to be white. We would not stand for their anthems. We would not kneel before their God." (28) So, your starting point, theologically, will be familiar to those I know best.

You dish out reality, as you have come to understand it (and you have earned this understanding, through reading, study, observation, and experience. Yours is not a capricious authority) in bitter doses stripped of any sweetening agent, stripped of salve, stripped of answers, or really of hope. These are powerful lessons that all of America needs to hear, but few will. I am wondering now, even, if Black America will hear them? Time will tell. I will be waiting and listening.

Meanwhile I hear you, and I believe you. I also hear something like hate and scorn, even bitterness and rage, for everyone in America who is white, or as you say, "believes" he or she is "white." That is so nuanced that even I with, as my kids say, way too many degrees to count, have to sit with, and read and re-read, and so hence am wondering how my "white" brothers and sisters will grasp. But I do not reject it. I have taught my own children to understand that it is probably true that many people of color are angry and may even hate "white" people (from now on I think I must say "white" people). I remember well the day, this past year, when my younger sister, who is mostly apolitical, hearing me explain some of the ways in which racism had played out in the past decades, simply said: no wonder black people hate white people. Yes, I think that would be a reasonable conclusion. In fact, I often think it's a wonder Black people often don't hate "white" people, and also that they don't kill white people. That's another subject for another day. It's just something that crosses my mind.

I wonder if there is a place in your rhetoric for anyone else beyond everyone who is not black? I know so many others, who, like myself, have been on a lifelong journey to reject the definitions of whiteness you hurl at us in the book. Who have not only not taken them for granted but have actively worked to undermine and undo the structural forces that create them. Who have raised children to move and relate in completely different ways in this world than their parents and grandparents did. Even still, as this new Civil Rights era takes off, who are re-examining assumptions about the world and preparing ourselves to re-engage, to be of service, who are willing to relinquish privilege, who believe you, who are wholeheartedly, and good-heartedly waiting and hoping to be of service in a struggle for a more righteous way.

The words you write are true. Their truth is startling, glaring, and brazenly courageous. This book will make change and stimulate discussion.

A Civil War Battlefield
Almost 7,000 died here. I pass by often and wonder long and hard about these things.

Your analysis of America is accurate. It's as heart-breakingly true as the day I learned of the sexual abuse that had occurred in my family when I was a child, and had to realize my childhood was not what I had thought. And you are correct, it is much like the realization that we, ourselves, will die. And it indicts us. It causes shame and humiliation, grief and deep sadness. Even despair. So, naturally people don't want to know this.

And I ask you this, as well: Can you allow that other people, even if they are not Black, may have had some experience from which they can identify with the fear, the visceral, gut-level, feeling of terror and imprisonment you experienced as you came awake to the danger of moving about in the world beyond Howard University, the fear of just being a human in your own skin? What I speak about is being a woman in many relationships of power/domination/control/abuse; being a child; attending most public schools; being a person with disability or disfigurement; being gay or lesbian or transgender? These are curiosities I have, wonderings, not challenges, and of course with no expectation that the actual author is ever going to read this!

So I am reading slowly, turning everything around and around, and contemplating each aspect of my present and past through your eyes as best I can. It's a treasure and a privilege.

I will have more to say. Thank you for this book.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


The truth about childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill.  ~  Alice Miller

It was a relief to hear President Obama's response to a question about revoking Cosby's Medal of Freedom during a press conference yesterday. First, he said that there was no mechanism in place to do so (to which one facebook friend suggested, Why not drug him and take it while he's unconscious?) and then Obama said, clearly, If you give someone a drug in order to have sex with them and then have sex with them, that is rape. And there is no tolerance for rape in this country.

But, in fact, there is an extraordinary amount of tolerance for rape, incest, pedophilia, child sexual abuse, sex slavery, prostitution, same-sex sexual abuse, date rape, and workplace sex abuse. I know a few of  these things from personal experience, but also from twenty years' experience in parish ministry, counseling and listening to countless stories of people who shall remain unnamed.

I also know of the degree to which these things are tolerated, ignored, and even excused and exonerated by our society by listening, watching, and observing the world around me. It doesn't take a great deal of insight or acumen to see how many people defended Cosby, or Jerry Sandusky, or Clarence Thomas, or any number of public figures who have been accused and ultimately found responsible for sex crimes. When one pauses and thinks about these things, it is certain that virtually every person knows or has met someone who has been sexually abused as a child. This may have happened at the hands of a stranger, but almost all cases it happened with someone the child knows and trusts. In fact 93-97% of child sexual abuse is at the hands of a family member or family friend.

While parents are being warned against strangers and are assiduously keeping their children "safe" on the internet or on the way home from school, it may be dear Uncle Charles or that great friend who offers to babysit that is the real threat. I once had a parent tell me that while her 6 year old was having piano lessons in one room, and older child was sexually abusing the 3 year old in another room in the same house. Needless to say, even one violation of this type can affect a person for life, and takes a great deal of work to recover from.

We've been hearing more about campus sex assault lately, and there's been some real ground covered in having resources available and in making sure justice is served when a person reports a sexual assault, be it opposite or same-gender assault. Still, much remains to be accomplished. Too many teens go off to college without the basic knowledge to be a vigilant as they will need to be in certain circumstances.

Does this sound like the paranoid ranting of someone who has an axe to grind? I wish it were so. 

Here are some statistics that sounds about right to me:
  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
Given the fact that many, many people never tell, and live with the horror of what happened locked inside of them, this alone is alarming. 

But that is not my main point today.

Here's my question, and I am still seeking a good answer: How do you stop a pedophile from potentially abusing children who are in his/her custody?

 This is a personal as well as, I think, as societal problem. I'm happy to tell my own personal story. In it, this person, a stepbrother, committed sexual abuse when he was more than 16 but younger than 18 (hence no grounds for changes now.) Until several years ago, he'd not married and did not appear to have much contact with children. (Although now that I've learned more about grooming and patterns, I question that.) Married a woman younger than he by at least 30 years who had an infant girl, then they had two sons. All of the children are still at home. They are isolated from family and have few outside activities. Have recently located to a different school. They were reported to Family Services last fall and visited by family services, but other than a routine visit, nothing was done. Shortly after that event, the person, his wife, and the children came into my church during a service and sat through part of the service in what I took to be a threatening maneuver, since the wife had called our home yelling and threatening. They assumed that I made the report since I'd recently moved to NJ. I reported them to the local police in case the threatening behavior continued.

Beyond the almost unbelievable violation of having a predator come into your home after your mother has died, and then discovering years later that he has sexually abused your very young siblings, what could be more horrifying than the violation of having that same predator enter the sanctuary of your church, and sit there when you are helpless to say anything. Thankfully, he left in a hasty manner. I am assuming this happened because he recognized people that knew him/knew of him in the congregation. I cannot recall the last time I was more repulsed and horrified. To me, this very behavior underscored the pathology, and the need for intervention on behalf of these children, who looked terrified as well.

Since then, I have discussed this issue with at least ten different people from all angles of the "system." A lawyer, social workers, school counselors, school nurses, police, and everyone I can think of that may know how to help these children. What if everything is fine with the children and the pedophilia I am reporting was "just" a passing thing and I am making this all up out of whole cloth like a crazy person?

Would that it were so.

Number one, I have no personal vendetta, because I was not the primary victim of the person in question. But, since I was there, and attempts were made with me, I completely believe every word of my siblings who were.

Two, I am so not that kind of person. I'm a forgiver. I have left so much crap a doodle in the past that it could fill up a landfill. This consumes me and has weighed on me for 10 or 12 years now since I knew that what I know could make a difference in saving a child from abuse. At first I tried writing to or befriending the mother. It soon became clear that she is also a victim/supporter of the perpetrator as well. I have revealed the "secret" to other family members who surely know something, and they have distanced themselves from me. Again, this only confirms my worst fears.

Here's some more about grooming. There's a look to look for and look at in the type of individual who might be committing this offense. I am truly alarmed at how many people seem to have just no intuitive or gut reaction to these things. We think now of all the clergy (mostly priests when it came to child sexual abuse) and these patterns are so clear.  And yet, it seems that people just don't want to believe that a father or step father could do this to his own child. Yes. He can. And it's happening every day. 

Taking a step back, and perhaps aside for a moment, I want to draw a parallel to the Cosby case. Just now in the news, we are reading, in his own words, the detailed description of how Cosby groomed the women whom he later drugged and sexually molested. And raped.

Here is my biggest puzzlement and despair: Although I have gone to numerous websites, called hot lines, spoken with experts, and read many books, the efforts are all aimed at getting people/victims to report or getting parents to look for signs. Yet no one seems to be acknowledging that in a huge number of cases, the parents or caregivers themselves are the perpetrators. So the child will never report. Never. And no will know, until it is far, far, too late and another life has been sacrificed to mental illness, suicide, addiction, or any one of the many dire consequences of childhood sexual abuse. There are days when I feel as if I am in a parallel universe and no one is seeing this.

So I just marvel that we have this elaborate system of family services and child protective services, that our taxes are being spent on this, people go to school and get Masters' Degrees for this... and yet the child is not protected from the monster in their own home. Each night and every morning I pray for these children, then I stop and reflect upon how many hundreds or thousands or maybe tens of thousands there are in the same situation or worse.

The people from the agencies will tell you: Yes, it's really sad but our hands are tied unless someone will tell us something. And that's my hope. In this case, I purely believe that someone will tell me something. And in the meanwhile, Those kids have an inkling that there is someone out there who is trying, desperately, to help. In fact, they not only know this because they were "interviewed" and heard their mother ranting about me, but they were forced to sit in my church, my sanctuary (what in the Hell did they think that was about?) and I looked into their eyes. I willed them to see that I was not evil, I was kind. I cared, for them, I knew right from wrong. I was, after all, a minister. Could this be something they can cling to? 

Miller writes about a "helping witness"—someone who acts (routinely, or even once at a critical time) with kindness toward the child and who somehow, by looking into the child's eyes, shows the child another way to live and be. This helper may have no idea of his or her role but nonetheless acts as a counterweight to the cruelty or neglect a child experiences. DR Miller says that a critical prerequisite for normal survival is that at least once in their lives, mistreated children come into contact with a person who understands that the environment, not the child, is at fault. This helping witness teaches the child that he or she is worthy of kindness. This lesson is the basis for resilience.
Dr Miller also describes a "knowing or enlightened witness"—someone who understands the importance of being a helping witness. This person recognizes the adverse effects of childhood trauma or neglect and is willing to give emotional support that helps a child understand and express true feelings. Sadly, the first (and perhaps only) "knowing witness" in most people's lives is often a therapist—but readily could be any physician, nurse, or teacher who is willing to understand what the child sees every day.
( quotes from Thou Shalt Not Be Aware)

One of these kids is not like the other.
Speak up.
Secrets only protect the pedophile.

Monday, July 13, 2015


George, c. 1958-9

I grew up in The North, not the South, but I have come to see that it doesn't make that much difference where racism is concerned. All of the United States is covered by a blanket woven of our racist past and present, a blanket we can only throw off together, that is, white, black, brown, old & young, powerful, and common folk, striving and speaking and listening together and staying at the table.

Just last night I read a post that saddened, but not surprise, me, written by a young African American leader in my own denomination who was called Ni--er on the streets of Boston. Today. 2015.

I told a member of the congregation that I am serving, near Atlantic City, that there are places in South Jersey where I'd feel more anxious wearing my Black Lives Matter button than anyplace in Kentucky I can think of. That doesn't necessarily mean that Kentucky's less racist.

This is a response to a widely circulated blog called, "I, Racist.." which is subtitled, "Why I Don't Talk About Race With White People..."  Read here.It's a response and a plea to all leaders, clergy, and persons of color to feel free to take a break, walk away, unfriend us, pick and choose when and where, and for how long, lay the ground rules, but for the sake of all that's holy, please don't stop talking.

Because there are so many white people who are more than ready to listen. 

My father in 1929, age 20

My father was born in 1909, and grew up in the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania. He was, in my eyes, racist. I used to say that he was not anything like Archie Bunker: "he was educated, he wasn't ignorant, he had a certain amount of class." The publication of Harper Lee's second novel this week, and the conversation about what kind of racist Atticus Finch (of whom Lee's father may or may not have been a prototype) may have been made me think about my father. It made me go and look for pictures of George, above, a Black man who my father would have said "worked around our place." We had, then, about 4-5 acres of land in New Jersey, and my father worked in Philadelphia. Although we had no persons of color in our small town or in my elementary school, George was one of two African Americans I would have come in contact with, the other being Emma, our "colored" maid. She was more than a maid, though, because after our mother died, she filled the role of mother for my sister, brother and me.

I don't think I even understood racism until much later, because my father seemed genuinely fond of these two individuals. I have no memories of him making any remarks about persons of color, or using the "N" word, ever. But, when we had a party during High School, and some members of the football team showed up uninvited, who also happened to be Black, he would not let them in. I knew, and hoped they didn't, that it was not because they weren't invited. It gradually became clear to me, and became clear primarily through literature, through books like To Kill a Mockingbird, and Huckleberry Finn,  and movies like To Sir, With Love,  that this was a problem, and that my father was on the wrong side of history. Like Atticus Finch, perhaps, he was fond of "colored" folk as long as they knew their rightful place. I am here to report to you that this sort of attitude still prevails and is still held by whites throughout small towns and rural places all over this country. 

How is refusing to talk about it going to help?

I want to propose a new way of looking at things. It is starting to trouble me that many of the essays, articles, blogs, and posts being written are of the persuasion that says: "White people need to....," and "White people are going to have to ...." and I'm tired of talking to white people...."  and so on. Most of which, by the way, are written by other white people who seem to know what's best.

I don't think there are just Black people and then... White people. There are multitudes of kinds, shapes and sizes and shades and variations of people of color, Black, Latino, Asian, and beyond. There are many ways of "being" a White person or a non-person of color. No one, including white people, likes to be lumped together with everyone else in the category that they look like according to their skin color.

For me, I've been hearing the argument that white people need to do their own work for a LOOOONG time. I and many, many, many white people have done an enormous amount of work. We continue to do this work. We do it daily. We struggle with the heavy blanket of racism, and the weight of white privilege at every junction. We didn't just start to do the work when a Gen X person told us what to do next. For me, the work began slowly, as an English major, feeling and understanding through literature. It really took off when, early in my UU ministry, I had the opportunity to go to UU Ministry Days with Lee Mun Wah and felt called to the ministry of Anti Racism. 

That was 20 years ago, and that call has never waned.

Riverside, California 1996-99

The first years were rewarding. I was able to visit the South with UU Service Committee and take part in Work Camps to rebuild burned churches in Alabama and South Carolina. I participated in forming community wide Study Circles. After a tragic shooting by the Riverside, California, police of a young Black woman, I was able to play a central role in the organizing of protests and national presence which finally led to the firing of the officers, although charges were never filed. Story

But the reason that I was able to make those strides was that I had conversations with members of the Black community in Riverside that were honest, straightforward and even a bit confrontational.

Conversations that led to relationships.

The first of these persons was Louise Hayes. We met often for breakfast and as our friendship grew, she began to tell me how it felt to be a Black woman in America. No holds barred. It took time, and patience, but when she began to see me as a friend, and to see that I was not uncomfortable with anger or rage, she also expressed these deeper feelings to me. And I feel certain that this has been true for multitudes of relationships between persons of color and "white people." 

Louise Hayes, Riverside, CA

The second person that I regularly place on my "jewel tree" when I do this Buddhist meditation, thanking and imagining all of my teachers and mentors, is the late Reverend Johnny Harris. He was a bit skeptical about the Study Circles we'd organized, and at one of our clergy greetings, he abruptly challenged me to do more than talk. He said that I ought to come over to the east side of town and do something with the congregation he served, and with the children's ministry there.

I did. From that grew a beautiful relationship, not only between Johnny, his wife Bridget and my family, but between our congregations. People did not feel bound to play nice. There was a level of honesty and camaraderie that was probably modeled by the relationship between Johnny and me. These are people that I would say "schooled" me, in the best sense of the word; they were unafraid to show me their anger, annoyance, and sheer frustration on matters of race and racism. I would like to think that they saw in me that I could take it, and that by giving me a piece of their mind, some change might occur, some good may come of it. I am so grateful that they did.

Johnny died suddenly while I was still in Riverside, and I left about six months after the shooting of Tyisha Miller, hoping that in Kentucky, which I viewed as part of "the South," there would be plenty of anti-racism work to do.

This was not to be the case.

In the fourteen years that I served the UU congregation in Lexington,  almost every endeavor I made to interact or create genuine dialogue with members of the African American community were disappointing. Committees I got myself onto, labelled "Race relations committee," or "MLK Day Committee," were little more than rubber stamp groups for decisions made elsewhere, by others. The African American pastors made it clear, time and again, that a woman minister, especially one who was a liberal as the UUs are, was not welcome in their pulpits or at their meetings. The message was not so much, "We're tired of talking to white people," as "we don't want anything to do with white liberals." After many years, I learned about a man who had worked for the city running a program for young men. Evidently he had been a pedophile and had abused dozens of young, African American boys over many years. Although he himself was African American, he was kept in place by the city government and agencies, including many white liberals, some of them from the Unitarian church.

We did some things. We volunteered at the "African Cemetery," an historic burial ground that had been long neglected. We studied, on our own, institutional and environmental racism, and we went to Biloxi to rebuild homes after Katrina. We volunteered in homeless shelters and at the detention center. We continued to keep race and racism in our conversation always. But having a conversation seemed to be impossible. And frankly, not much happened in the greater community to unite us. But that's a wider conversation, about Kentucky, especially Lexington, for another day. Suffice it to say, what isn't said speaks more loudly than what is in Kentucky.

This marker was installed in the early 2000s, after much contention and lobbying. Prior to its installation, the popular downtown square bore no trace of its traumatic past.

So, this is where many of us "white people" are. We have listened. We have been quiet. We haven't been running in and trying to take over everything as we are accused of doing. We've backed off as suggested. For me, the days of active ministry are numbered, although I hope my days of anti-racist ministry will last as long as I last.

There is so much to talk about. And so many of who are ready. We don't mind being schooled, but that can only happen in the context of a relationship, between two mature adults, or young adults, willing to talk, listen, stay at the table, stick it out, show up, be real. I know this can happen because I have experienced it, and from this grows understanding and a world of hope. Please, don't stop now.