We’re trying to return normalcy but the world has changed

At First United Methodist Church we started services back officially on Father’s Day, June 21. What a different world it is. We no longer hug one another or shake hands. We stand at a distance to talk and all the while wear masks. Who would have foreseen the state of our world? Masks are considered optional by the many, but the recent uptick in cases just reinforces to me that they are necessary. Not everyone wants to wear them, but we are doing our best to encourage them. My mask protects you from me, and your mask protects me from you.

Masks and the coronavirus is not all that we are facing, there is also the issue of social justice or social injustice. The latest case (as I write) has muddied the waters because Rayshard Brooks ran from police while raising a taser at an officer. We can debate whether the shooting was justified or not, but George Floyd’s death is something that has sparked protests around the country and now needs to spark conversations in our community. I cannot think of anything that makes me more uncomfortable than to talk about this subject. I am not qualified and I am not an expert at any level, but I am a person who realizes we don’t have a level playing field. I have been listening to Dr. Robin DiAngelo and while I have not tackled her book, I have listened to her talk on the Religion and Race page of the United Methodist Church. She has challenged my thinking that I am not a racist. She argues that racism is not an individual conscious dislike or explicit bias or hatred, but is rather an unconscious bias, which makes it really hard to see. Her best line is that since she didn’t see herself as a bad person, she didn’t see herself as connected to racism. I am not a bad person, either, and would like to leave it there, but she goes on to describe racism as a system of unequal treatment. A system that I am at the very least complicit in and a beneficiary of. We need to talk to one another in ways that go deeper than most of us are comfortable with. I commit to reading her book and having the conversations that can help me to better understand the deep anger that I see on television.

I am hopeful that we can get back to normal with the virus, that we can hug again, but I am equally hopeful that we will never get back to life as normal when we treat others of color as less than those of us who are white.

The Rev. Don Hanna
First United Methodist Church
Okeechobee

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