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Stories that challenge


Last night we watched the fictionalised story of Anthony Bryan, a Windrush child, called “Sitting in Limbo.”  It was a disturbing portrayal of the injustice and racism Mr. Bryan endured once it was discovered that he did not hold a British passport.

As I watched the story unfold, I pictured myself in Mr. Bryan’s home.  I have been in many such homes in Wellingborough.  I have had the joy of hearing the stories of individuals arriving from across the Caribbean to work in England.  Some came first to Wellingborough because a family member was already there.  Some went first to London then settled in Wellingborough.  They came and worked and saved, married and sent for children and had children here.  They birthed our babies and wiped our bums.  They drove our buses and were our builders.  They built good lives, were proud of their homes and their families.  I heard many of their stories at the end of life.  I felt sad that I had not known them longer but grateful to know of their lives.  I enjoyed celebrating with their families and friend, lives built and the communities nurtured.  

As I sat with people, I also heard the stories of the children who the teachers assumed were not clever— not given opportunities to learn until, by accident, a supply teacher discovered they could read.  I heard the story of a woman, heavily pregnant, refused a glass of water from a chemist.  I listened to the woman who was literally haunted by some “ghost”/ trauma that kept her from sleeping and working.  I also know the stories that were shared with me were only the tip of the iceberg.  I am grateful for the bravery of those who trusted me with their lives and their experiences.  

So as I watched the film, I was angry—angry at a system that twisted and destroyed lives for the sake of showing some people that the government could control immigration.  I am angry at those who were complicit or misused their authority to hurt people and traumatise them.  

It would be easy to sit in that place of anger, however, I feel I must  move beyond anger and ask myself a few questions:  “How am I currently complicit in racism?  What do I do that supports systemic racism?  What do I need to do differently?’

I am not sure I know the answers, but I have to unpack the questions so that I can become a better ally.  Many of us know people mistreated by the immigration system.  We can pinpoint that mistreatment and find ways to address it by writing to our government officials.  I think we now have to go beyond writing to the government.  Can create an environment in which we listen and learn from those we know who are Black?  Can we change our language?  When our prejudices are activated, can we address those unconscious fears that rise in us?  Can we acknowledge our privilege and use our roles to include those who often struggle to find a place at the table?  Can we bring the issues around racism into the open and address them with grace, listening and learning, leaning into the pain we cause and changing ourselves?  When challenging racism, can we stand firm rather than letting the other person off the hook?

Jesus was not apolitical as we sometimes like to suggest.  Saying “Jesus is Lord” was, under Roman rule, a challenge to the authority of Roman for the Roman ruler was supposed to be the “Lord.” Jesus  stood with those marginalised within his community for their race, their disability, their gender.  His ministry included the outcasts as well as the powerful in God’s kingdom; this was radical in his time.  He also spoke against the oppressive Roman regime.   If we place Jesus in our time and ask where we might find him in our current political climate, I am pretty sure he is at the protests, proclaiming, “Black lives matter!” 

We are called to follow Jesus.  Can we join him in our time by standing with those demanding justice and equality and challenging our oppressive systems? 

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