By Rev. Steve Greene
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
You don’t have to call me the “N-word” to be racist. You simply have to “joke” that you can’t see the ashes in the form of a cross on my forehead due to the colour of my skin. You don’t have wear a white hood nor do you need to plant a burning cross on my front lawn to be racist. You can simply mention that you are surprised that I am “articulate” and never knew “that a black priest would know what he’s doing.” Those are two of the many encounters I have experienced as an Anglican priest.
Many Canadians look to the States and accuse them of racism. There is racism in the States, yet we carry and pass on this same disease. Due to our “polite” nature (sometimes subversive and passive-aggressive), many do not recognize that racism is quite prominent in our country.
On a warm June evening, a call was answered. On June 3, over twenty thousand people marched with signs raised, chants professed and grief in their hearts. According to the KW Solidarity March for Black Lives Matter, an additional forty-four hundred watched online and sixty-three thousand viewed this incredible and necessary event.
As we gathered and walked, I was overwhelmed with joy and hope that men and women, children of different ethnicities came and illustrated that hatred will not win. That racism and the pre-judging of our brothers and sisters must stop! As we gathered and walked, I was overcome with great sadness and grief, for the words my mother told me when I was growing up in Montreal were still alive, active and continues to subtly poison the wells of our society.
The words from a Bajan woman echoed in my heart, “Stephen, you will have to work twice as hard as the next person, because many people will only see you for the colour of your skin. To many my son, you are not a person.” As the chants of “no justice, no peace, no racist police” echoed in the streets of Kitchener, my eyes looked onto two of my children, Trinity and Joshua. They walked, they assessed, they soaked in as much their minds and hearts could… Yet I saw in them what I saw when I was their age… why do some people hate me? Why do these atrocities and deaths continue to occur and mount, especially by those who have sworn to protect me? Why are there people who fight, they fight for they “respect the dignity of every human being” and others who flee or even remain silent? Why?!
A group of Huron clergy attending protest in Kitchener, June 3, 2020
We have racism in our midst and I believe this disease has a theological term, sin. As Christ followers we are called to fight against this malice not merely with our words and wallets, yet with our lives. We are called and convicted by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to help those who walk in hate, who willfully and willingly continue to hide in the darkness. I believe that we are called to put on the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:11-17 and Romans 13:12) and to stand! A stand that only marks our faithfulness to the Prince of Peace, yet also sets the mark for the next generation.
We have a long way to go and this sin will not be quenched by mere words nor by outdated educative measures, yet by believing, receiving and living out Christ’s message and mission. You are not called nor created to be silent, yet to profess and live out, to work out your salvation. A salvation that abides in you and is revealed in you because you do what is right (1 John 3:10-11).
I was honoured to walk beside my brothers and sisters in Christ, Rev. Cheryl Highmore, Rev. Matthew Kieswetter, Rev. Marty Levesque, Rev. Joel Steiner, Rev. Margaret Walker, Rev. Preston Parsons, Mr. Brandon Bedford and Miss Tianna Gocan. The march helped my children witness that there is strength in numbers, Jesus is present, the Church will stand against injustices and will not be silent and God’s children are reflecting the light, life and love of the Kingdom. We shall overcome some day.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
Rev. Steve Greene is the rector at St. Luke’s, Cambridge and St. Thomas The Apostle, Cambridge.