The news out of Atlanta over the last 36 hours has been a swirl of tragedy, horror, and a distressing series of comments by police that seek to point anywhere but to the fact that these murders were racially motivated. Sex addiction, mental illness, human trafficking, random gun violence—these are threads woven into the news cycle for reasons yet unclear to me—perhaps meant to humanize the alleged perpetrator (we must ask then, for what purpose?), or perhaps police are striving to avoid stoking the embers of racial protests Atlanta saw last summer.
Whatever the motives, and whatever other “isms” may be involved in this mass murder, it is evident that these were racially motivated hate crimes targeting Asian women. What’s more, I have heard from Asian Americans in the Saint Mark’s community in the last 24 hours expressing a real fear for their lack of safety in this time—and yes, in this place…in Seattle where we have heard accounts of violence against Asian Americans precipitated by an insidious xenophobia seeking to lay blame for a viral pandemic. This is not an issue for a city in the Deep South—it is an epidemic that has swept the nation, and lurks in our midst as well—right here, right now.
The Vestry of this Cathedral is on record as denouncing white nationalism which I believe is at the heart of all this hatred and the violence that flows from it. I write this morning, not primarily to comment on the hate crimes in Atlanta (horrific as they are), but to draw on whatever emotional response you may have in this moment in the wake of those murders, and say to you: we have work to do HERE, in Seattle, and at Saint Mark’s.
An estimated ten percent of the Saint Mark’s community are Asian Americans; 14% of Seattle’s population is Asian. It is not okay that they do not feel safe. It is not okay that they feel the need to watch over their shoulder when they go to the grocery store, or to work…or to church. The collective trauma of decades of disrespect, injustice, and racial violence takes its toll, and I wonder how we might awaken to the haunts of racism, not just as a systemic blight on our society, but also really face racism as the very real weight some in our midst must carry relentlessly while others of us do not.
Do we care enough to make it personal?
Here on the eve of Holy Week, I’m mindful that Jesus says, if we are to follow him, it must be personal. What is our response, beyond horror or outrage for a few days before returning to our routines? What is our response collectively as a faith community? What will you do personally?
Your Brother in Christ,