In Sunday’s second reading, St. Paul speaks of boasting of our affliction. As I read his words, I wonder, what does this mean for our national afflictions?
The United States was built on genocide, land theft, and chattel slavery—an insidious system of white supremacy. At the expense of people’s humanity and lives, this affliction continues to be expressed and experienced daily. So, what would it mean to boast and to move into endurance, character, and hope?
With the love of God poured out into our hearts, we can make this move from affliction to hope by our commitment to the work of bold change. To undermine the terrorizing, dehumanizing system at the bedrock of our society, we have to become part of the powerful multiracial movement for racial justice. We need to do the work—to use our hands and skills—and to be deeply committed and know our stake in this work.
I resonate with a quote from Lilla Watson, an aboriginal elder and activist: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” As a white anti-racist organizer, it is vital that I know why I’m part of this work so that I can endure—and hope. Countless leaders of color, among them Kwame Ture and Alicia Garza, have called on white communities to undermine white supremacy where it is born and maintained—in white communities. Indeed, my work is deeply grounded in the intimacy and connectedness that Lilla Watson expresses. This system has harmed and stopped us all from being freed.
I know that to boast of affliction into endurance, into character, and into hope, is the work of collective liberation—the work for a future where all are free.
Josie Diebold is a graduate of Canisius College (2009) and a former Jesuit Volunteer (Houston 09-10, Syracuse 10-11). She is currently a PhD student at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work and is also a member of the leadership team for Buffalo, NY’s chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. Josie enjoys being an aunt to three awesome kiddos and doing cross fit, in addition to running, swimming, and biking (all very slowly).