One-hundred and sixty-nine years ago today, abolitionist, writer, and statesman Frederick Douglass gave a speech to the 600 members of the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society entitled "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" This past weekend, Christian leaders from around the country gathered virtually with Red Letter Christians to read this powerful piece together.
The dead become a statistic that we debate regarding who has the right idea about what they did and did not deserve, and in so doing we convince ourselves that we have been granted the rights as gatekeepers who hold the key to determining whether or not someone was worthy enough to finish living out their story.
There is a certain amount of community guilt that comes with all the benefits of being an American. As Christians, we should know this. Did you eat the fruit in Eden? I didn't eat the fruit. There is no way I would have eaten the fruit. Everyone says the same thing when it comes to slavery.
This project, perfectly encapsulated in the building of a statue, has served to effectively shield white Americans from feelings of guilt or thoughts of reparation—but it has left us woefully unable or unwilling to fix systemically racist systems.
The public naming of things hidden, things embedded, systemic, is prophetic.