Dear Holy Rebels,
I am: Follower of the Way and the Divine One and a Holy Rebel. White, heterosexual female wife, mother, aunt, sister, step-mother, cousin, friend, colleague, teacher, ordained United Methodist minister, and great granddaughter of the largest enslaver in Carroll County, Georgia. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.
I recall as a 13 year old during the implementation of the Civil Rights Act and the integration of schools in Atlanta my parents, whom I love and who raised me in a Southern Baptist congregation, told me that “we never owned slaves” and didn’t owe “Black People” anything. My parents were products of Jim Crow segregation laws, and because two of my relatives had yet to do the genealogical research of the Martin family (my paternal family) my father had no idea that his grandfather had owned slaves. Even if he and my mother had known this at the time, I do not think it would have changed their minds about their own complicity and benefit from my father’s great grandfather owning slaves.
As a 13 year old in high school, I knew that the Black students in my classes were like me—they were in school to learn and a few of them were “brains” like me. That was my nickname in high school—“the brain”—I have always been a learner, a thinker/intellectual, and curious about people and the world. During my ninth grade year I decided to run for a student government office—vice-president of the ninth grade student council—and my opponent was a Black male whom I had classes with and was a “brain” like me, Joseph Youngblood. After the voting, Joseph and I were in a tie so there had to be a “run-off”. We had to “campaign” again, and we both knew and discussed together that this voting was really about “White vs. Black”. We felt it, we both heard and received the comments—good and bad—that informed us that for many of our fellow students this was about race and not who would best represent them on the student council. Joseph and I agreed that we were both capable of being excellent student council representatives for the ninth grade. I received the most votes in the runoff and became the vice-president for the ninth grade for student council. It was a bittersweet win. I was glad I won, and knew that the vote was more about race than about my capabilities to lead/represent.
Moving to Hawaii to live as a military wife in 1975, five years after this ninth grade experience, was the first time in my life that I had lived far away from my parents, family, and friends. Arriving in Hawaii, I encountered up close and personal what it was like to have people who did not know me dislike me because of the color of my skin. I was a Haole—a non-native Hawaiian and a White person—who represented all the White people who had cheated, lied, and stolen the island land away from the native Hawaiians. I will never say that my experience is equivalent to the racism that African Americans experience in the U.S. I will say that it was a humbling experience to be immediately disliked because I was White. Privileged, sheltered, and ignorant due to my Southern upbringing certainly described me at the young age of 19. Reading all the Hawaiian history I could, learning about the food, the culture, and the people by asking questions and being transparent became my purpose. Success was wonderful as I worked with local people, completed my undergraduate degree, did my student teaching in a local high school, and then spent my first year of teaching at The Kamehameha Schools. Transformation occurred in my life in the ways I view People of Color.
It would be over 40 years later that the full impact of slavery would hit me when I was taking a class in Christian Thought at Emory University Candler School of Theology, and the professor used art work of the slave trade and the slave trade ships to drive home the inhumanity of slave trade. By then my cousins and aunt had done their genealogy homework, and I was fully aware of my great great grandfather enslaving people. This reality hit me hard. I have never been the same since I experienced the reality of the artwork depicting the inhumane transport and enslavement of people brought to this country to be sold to do labor and to be treated as “less than human beings”. No, I had never seen these images or heard this history in any of my high school classes or college classes. I had and still have a privileged and sheltered life. I was and am complicit in racism in this country. I have benefited from enslavement of African Americans through my ancestry.
Today I watched a compilation video https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/31/us/george-floyd-investigation.html?referringSource=articleShare, “8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody”, and again I felt compelled to write out my feelings and anger. My words are not enough. As a Holy Rebel, I must do better to fight racism and injustice in this country. I ask you to join me as Holy Rebels who refuse to be complacent with the way things are in this country. This leads me to the final action that angers me:
President Trump, in a public media effort to ensure that he was seen outside the White House and not in his “safe bunker” used the Secret Service to clear the area and street so that he could walk across the street to the front of St. John’s Episcopal Church awkwardly hold an upside down Bible in his hand and proclaim that America is a great country. The rector of the church posted this: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Frevdrtaylor%2Fposts%2F10223398677660837&width=500“
It seems that many people in this country are “anti-establishment”, “anti-government”, and eschew hearing from or trusting “experts”. Experts are viewed as having no common sense, no real daily experience, and simply share their thoughts. Really?, I say. When I need medical care, I want a medical expert. When I need my car repaired, I want a mechanical expert. When I need a plumber for my home, I want an expert plumber. When I want thoughtful theology and critique of a religious faith, I want to hear from an expert theologian in that faith tradition. All experts are not our enemies. All experts are not equal. Many of our elected leaders have become experts at being elected by representing themselves as non-experts. I plan to be sure to not vote for these kind of experts.
Holy Rebels we currently have a President of this country who is a narcissistic, sociopathic, incompetent, self-centered leader. He is supported by his political spineless party minions who continue to work to divide us and refuse to work together across party lines to address and alleviate the serious vexing issues in our country of racism, health care, environmental destruction, applicable and practical education of citizens, and real helpful assistance for people who are in need of food and shelter. Make an informed VOTE this November for candidates that will work to do all the things the current political leadership at the national and state level are not doing that must be done to heal and help us be the “United” States of America. VOTE.