The annual History of Racial Injustice Calendar by The Equal Justice Initiative directed by Bryan Stevenson is an informative and powerful resource. Each day recalls an event in our nation's long legacy of racial injustice. Although this calendar reveals deep levels of national pain, it provides a step toward healing because we cannot heal what we don't acknowledge. Today's entry lifted up the official end of Reconstruction as federal troops were removed from Louisiana in 1877. The result was developing systematic oppression of African Americans that came to be known as Jim Crow. While the legal structures of Jim Crow segregation were dismantled during the modern civil rights movement, the struggle against the social and spiritual legacy of Jim Crow continues. Just this week, officials in New Orleans began removing monuments commemorating the Confederacy and racial oppression. This is being met with significant opposition and hostility to the point that workers involved with removing the first such monument had to work in the middle of the night and conceal their identities our of fear of reprisal. That first monument actually memorialized a violent revolt against the post civil war Reconstruction government in New Orleans. As described in a Washington Post article:
"The Battle of Liberty Place monument, which honors members of the Crescent City White League who died trying to overthrow the New Orleans government after the Civil War, was the first of four statues linked to the Confederacy that are set to be torn down in New Orleans.
Landrieu said that “intimidation and threats by people who don’t want the statues down” prompted him to order the monument removed before sunrise — without prior announcement, by masked workers, on the same day that some other states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day."
This recent event in New Orleans reminds us that the struggle for truth and reconciliation about our nation's history of racial injustice continues today. As followers of Jesus, we believe the words of the apostle John who wrote, "If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9). This is true not only for individuals but for communities and nations too. The witness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa is a powerful example of this reality. In our country, we have yet to follow this example on a national level. The story unfolding in New Orleans is a call to continue the unfinished struggle of confessing our nation's legacy of racial injustice so that we can move toward greater levels of justice and reconciliation. The Church is called to the ministry of confession and forgiveness not only for individuals but for our communities and nation as well. Watch the video below to see Governor Landrieu's press conference in which he offers an eloquent and insightful reflection on helping his city and our nation move forward with healing and hope.