“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” -Jeremiah 31:15
Litany of Lament (Episcopal Church, Enhancing our Worship vol. 5)
God, hear our prayer And let our cry come to you. Merciful God, we come to you in sorrow. Help us to grieve; let our tears flow; and look upon our broken hearts. God, hear our prayer, And let our cry come to you. We have lost children. We have lost hope. We have lost our way. Consider our losses. God, hear our prayer, And let our cry come to you. Our faith has been shaken. We are haunted by memories and weighed down with guilt. We are sick with sadness, weak with despair. Help us know your presence. God, hear our prayer, And let our cry come to you. In our suffering, we turn away from those who suffer also. Our bonds have been strained, one with another. Show us your compassion and help us forgive others and feel their sorrows. God, hear our prayer, And let our cry come to you. [We longed for these children, but wickedness has betrayed our hopes. Help us to honor them, and trust in your faithfulness. God, hear our prayer,] And let our cry come to you. Help us envision a future filled with promise, even if we cannot know what lies in store for us. Help us have confidence in your love as we take each new step. God, hear our prayer, And let our cry come to you.
I share these stories because we need to see how common this is. Racism isn’t in the past, but here and now. It is embedded in our systems and institutions. We can only change these things by voting out the powers that keep these racist systems alive and well.
It is not enough to simply vote out the enabling powers behind life crushing institutions and soul sucking policies; we must replace them with powers willing to transform those structures imbued with racial bias.
If Sedrick Altheimer had been killed, we wouldn’t be reading the story of a racist sheriff doing racist shit—we would be reading stories framing Altheimer out to be a criminal. He nearly became another name for us to say out loud.
Yes. Some will rightly claim this is just speculation, but let me point out a fact in this case—that sheriff isn’t behind bars. He made a call to clearly put Altheimer’s life on the line. The sheriff put out a distress signal to his fellow law enforcers that a badge was in danger. The sheriff intentionally manufactured a scenario which drastically increased the risk to Altheimer.
The sheriff walks. He might be sued, might lose his job, might go bankrupt—but he walks. A black man accused of some minor offense finds themself thrown behind bars to rot. But, the sheriff walks.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can create a more equitable and free system, but it takes all of us stepping up to vote for real change. We must weed out those who continue to cling to the racially biased structures destroying our neighbors.
At the very least, we ought to demand a system in which even a sheriff is held accountable for attempting to have a man lynched.