This has been a disturbing week for many of us who work for racial justice/reconciliation in our country. The ongoing crisis of dehumanizing conditions of detention along our southern border, the fear of increased ICE raids, and the racist tweets of the President aimed at four duly elected women members of Congress combine to promote discouragement at best and cynicism at worst about what it means to be people of faith and justice at this time in our nation’s history. So it was an unexpected gift when I read the recent email from the Children’s Defense Fund that included a link to a short video by the late Dr. Vincent Harding who was a colleague of Dr. King, a person of deep Christian faith, a teacher of non-violence, and a life long advocate for peace and justice. The video is posted below. It was recorded at the 2012 Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference. Dr. Harding died a little over a year later. Although he didn’t live to experience our present struggles with fear and racism, his words speak directly to us today. He begins with the captivating line, “I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist.” He goes on the explain that Americans have always had to struggle with living into our espoused principles of freedom and justice for all. When it comes to living fully into these principles, our country has not yet existed. Yet we are called to continue that journey despite any and all obstacles along the way. This harkens back to a poem by Langston Hughes called “Let American Be America Again.” Here is a section of the poem that connects with the message of Dr. Harding:
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
You can read the entire poem by clicking here.
Please take a few minutes to view and reflect on Dr. Harding’s video posted below. As people of faith, we are called to continue the journey toward freedom and justice for all people realizing that we are indeed citizens of a country that does not yet exist. How is God calling you and me to take steps to bring that country into existence? We are not alone on the journey. Thanks be to God.