The thing that strikes me about this short text this morning (it’s from Ephesians 5.8 in the Bible), is the confidence of it, and that it’s stated as fact; “You once were darkness but now you are light”. I’m also struck by how it’s talking about modes of being. It doesn’t say, “You once walked in darkness”, or “You once were like darkness”, or “You once were blinded by darkness”. It says “You once were darkness”. That’s a pretty powerful statement. And equally powerful is the strong assertion “but now you are light”.
We physically distanced ourselves, we wore masks, we knelt in silence, fists of resistance raised. The air hummed with our anger, our sorrow and our determination to bring about change. One moment, feeling a bit foolish, kneeling there, the next looking again at the young black woman at the front, fist never lowering even for a moment. She knows what it is to be black. She knows this isn’t just another issue; this is life or death. Then our anger mixed with humiliation for generation upon generation of our collective failure to act or to speak up. Or to even see the people around us as they really are, and listen to them talk, at length, about their lived experience, their pain; their reality.
My friend wrote a chant in response to this which serves as a song of lament and also a way of reminding ourselves repeatedly to wake up and pay attention, to prevent us falling back into our well worn grooves of inaction, silence or complicity:
“The beginning of evil is heedlessness; Lord have mercy”
Another friend blogged a response to do with the controversial dismantling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. What he writes is astonishing and in my view should be read by anyone in the UK currently or who has an interest in what is happening here.
“…it was only in 2015 that we [UK Government] finally finished paying the debt borrowed by the UK state to pay off the slave owners after the abolition of slavery act in 1833. It was the biggest payment in our history, more than the bankers bailout in 2008. It was 40% of our entire GDP. Not a penny went to slaves who still had to work as interns for free for a further 5 years.”