Idioms, particular sayings or expressions can be powerful and positive; they can also be haunting and even trauma-inducing. The phrase “Silence=Death” is one of the latter for me. First introduced in 1987 by a group of gay men in New York City during the AIDS crisis, as a title for their project to raise awareness and support, it soon eclipsed its original intent and scope and became a clarion call for speaking truth to power. Sadly, over the past 30+ years the phrase has been necessarily used in response to a plethora of devastating acts of violence, persecution, injustices and unimaginable horrors inflicted on marginalized groups within our global community.
Last week I heard those words again, this time from President Biden in his remarks addressing Asian discrimination following the murders in Georgia on Tuesday, March 16th. His statement resounded with clarity and conviction,” this has to change, because our silence is complicity. We have to speak out. We have to act.” AND, while I was so grateful to hear those powerful words, I know it is not enough. I know that it is, once again, and always, up to each of us to stand up, speak out and confront anything in ourselves, our systems our patterns and practices that minimize, degrade and/or destroy the well-being of all. Or, as our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry says we are called as the followers of Jesus of Nazareth to “stand up, speak up, and show up when hatred or bigotry is directed at any child of God.”
Bottom line- acts of racial hatred must stop NOW and we must commit ourselves to the work of Becoming Beloved Community every day.
Last week, The Deputies of Color of the General Convention (Asian Caucus, Black Caucus, Indigenous Caucus, and Latinx Caucus) wrote and published a beautiful letter to the church expressing their outrage after the shooting, concern and love for the victims and families and issuing a call to action.
I end today with a brief excerpt of their letter.
May we all grieve and then stand up and courageously speak out whenever and wherever we have a chance to be a witness of God’s powerful love in the world.
…We mourn the lives lost and stand with the victims and families. We are hurt that members of our Asian community wake every morning fearing acts of violence and have been the scapegoats for this pandemic. We lament the complicity of silence and we express our gratitude for many who stand in solidarity with the Asians and Pacific Islanders during this troubling time.
It is becoming far too common for people acting through social media or in their day-to-day encounters to encourage such hatred. What is happening and the normalization of violence in any form are not acceptable and need to stop. The destructive power of words has caused lives to be lost. For too many years, ignorance and hate have been weaponized against people of color. This hatred and ignorance are another virus amongst us.
We call on all people across The Church to use their voice and power to stop these acts of hatred and racial violence immediately. We call on all leaders to set an example in their words, their deeds, and all forms of communication to oppose such hatred instead of encouraging it…
(Read the full letter here: A Statement from the Deputies of Color of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.)
It is in Jesus’ ultimate renouncing of all violence and hatred that he offers us a pattern and practice for our own lives. When asked what it means to follow Christ, I wonder if part of our answer could be found in our willingness to remember the power of God’s love encouraging us to be bold participants in the work of loving each other; remembering every day that for so many of us we have the privilege and perhaps the responsibility to speak up and out against anything that is not clothed in that love and respect.
May you never forget that you are loved.