Those words could be used as a summary of life in America for black people over the centuries and is still true for hundreds of thousands of black and brown people today. Get up, while I hold you down. The insistence over the last 40 years that black people in the inner city need to take personal responsibility for their lives while obstacles and barriers are erected to prevent just that is what systemic racism looks like.
And we see it again today. Congress is concerned that poor people who received an extra $600 per week in unemployment in the first Cares Act will be motivated to stay home rather than returning to work if that additional aid is extended. And yet, what jobs are available? Thousands of employers have laid off workers as a result of the plummeting need for workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Go to work, while there are no jobs to be had. Go to work, while we make sure that you cannot pay the rent or provide food for your families. Go to work, while we hold our knees on your neck.
It is not hard to see where a lack of justice exists in America. It has always been hiding in plain sight. And we disciples of Jesus are called to seek justice in the land. It is the work of we Christians to insist that our nation no longer keep its knee on the neck of our siblings in Christ. It is our work to do to find ways to reclaim all those who have been systemically shut off from the blessings of living in this land. We can no longer be complacent or apathetic when our nation says to the least of these, “get up, while we hold you down!”
The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix is Bridge Conference Minister. Kendrix, a 2013 graduate of Yale Divinity, earned that school’s Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise in pastoral leadership, the highest prize conferred on a graduating student ...