The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, a prophetic voice of our time, says this about the impact of racism on all of us, but in particular, the impact of racism on children and young men of color: “These are our children…and they are in danger. We have to fix this; we have to address the ways that racism in the United States is like a virus that mutates and continues to infect us. Children are not born to hate, nor are they born to fear. But adults who have the virus can harm them, and children can catch the virus, too. It can feel overwhelming to address racism, but we have to do it.”
As the grief, turmoil, and protests continue in Ferguson, MO, and around the country, I remember that Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot six times after some sort of encounter with the police, was supposed to have started college this past Monday, August 18th.
If you have a child (or children) in school, you are familiar (or are preparing for the first time!) for this fall time ritual, the beginning of the new school year.
Our son starts kindergarten next Wednesday; he’ll board the bus, wearing his backpack, carrying our hearts with him, as he begins his first day. This scene, in various communities, in various ways, repeats itself around the country; parents will drive a young adult to college; parents will prepare for life with a middle-schooler, or a high-schooler; and some parents will watch as their child boards the bus for the first time.
These are poignant, tender days; I am aware of those among us who have lost a child, a child who would now be in high school, college, or beginning a new job this fall. I am aware of the families, like Michael Brown’s family, who have lost young men because of the virus of racism. And I am aware of all the living children – all of our children, of all colors – who are very much in need our love, support, and blessing, so that they might thrive.
Next Sunday, at our 10 a.m. service, we will be holding our “Blessing of the Backpacks” service. Children and youth are encouraged to wear their school backpacks to church, so that we can include them in the Backpack Blessing ritual. If you are able, please bring an extra backpack to donate for students at Augsburg Fairview Academy. We will bless these backpacks, too.
As we move toward this ritual, ready to bless the backpacks and the lives of those most precious to us, let us remember those children and young adults no longer with us. Let us remember Michael Brown, and the many others like him, who have no backpack to bless.
Let us remember the preciousness of all children, and let us continue to work for a world of equity, justice, and compassion.
May it be so.