We are in the midst of a revolution: compelled to shift the axes of our worlds and to unlearn much of what we’ve been taught.
And with a challenge of this magnitude, recognizing the multiplicity of revolutionary work is crucial: for some it’s marching. Or boycotting. Writing. Painting. For others, it’s sitting with your community and demanding justice. And in today’s reading, Jesus does revolutionary work in his community, calling for a more just world order.
In her autobiography, Assata: An Autobiography, black revolutionary Assata Shakur writes to her mother:
We have all been infected
with a sickness
that can be traced back
to the auction block.
Today, while this sickness stalks black bodies, it propagates with white people: in complacency, or ruthless denial, or debilitating shame. Traumatizing the black community further: murder at the hands of police, racialized poverty, systematic erasure of black queer folks, a prison industrial complex that benefits from the modern-day enslavement of black bodies.
Today’s reading offers a response to this legacy: Jesus, a revolutionary in his community, says that we cannot be reconciled in this lifetime until we have restored relationships with those we’ve harmed. He illustrates that words without action are the height of hypocrisy (Mt. 5:20-6). Action is white folks centering the voices of historically oppressed communities, recognizing that these communities should be the writers of their own histories. Action is white folks living in a way that prioritizes black and brown lives over their feelings of white guilt or shame or fear. All of this, in order to join the urgent work of dismantling the system built on the backs of the enslaved, and on the stolen land of indigenous people; just as Jesus was willing to eradicate oppressive structures. This is the vision of reconciliation.
None of us can avoid the legacy of the auction block. Nor the responsibility to repair the devastation created by its atrocities. And we must remember, as Assata teaches us: It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
- In what ways do you see the legacy of the auction block perpetuating itself in your life? How have you actively perpetuated it?
- How can you begin to center the voices of oppressed communities in your own life?
- What work will you commit to in order to dismantle this oppressive system?