Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving thanks with awareness of our collective original sins

Thanksgiving has always been a wonderful break to gather with family and friends, but also a time to clarify what specifically is worthy of celebrating.

I give thanks for the values this nation's founders sought--the freedom for each American to live out his or her most cherished ideals, the opportunity to speak our conscience without fear of reprisal, the separation of church and state, and the protection from individuals and organizations who threaten to violate our basic freedoms. 

But the story of how our nation has lived out these values is deeply checkered. Beginning with the displacement and exploitation of native peoples that has occurred for generations--our Thanksgiving story is a myth that glosses over the treatment of Native Americans.

But that’s not the only original sin of our nation. The institution of slavery that was protected in this nation’s original documents has contributed to a history of racial tension that still has yet to be resolved. 

Throughout our history, the nation’s leaders have failed to live up to the sacred ideals of our nation from the very beginning. Since then, leaders have seen fit to treat some of our people as ‘less’ than others, often favoring people who look and act like those in power and limiting the rights of populations who don’t. Examples include Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants exploited for their labor, Japanese citizens rounded up into concentration camps during WWII, Mexicans forced to show documentation of citizenship, and now Muslims being targeted by some politicians as potential terrorists.

During this Thanksgiving week, our region is haunted by the legacy of racism, inequality and injustice. Here in Chicago, we must come to terms with a cover-up of the murder of a 17-year-old black boy by a white Chicago police officer. 
The last two nights, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets chanting "16 shots" responding to the release of a video showing Laquan McDonald being gunned down; many of the shots fired after he fell to the ground.
When the City of Chicago first became aware of this video, they offered $5 million to Laquan’s family with the stipulation that the family would not seek to make the video public. This happened before the family had even filed a lawsuit. 

The leaders of Chicago and Cook County are struggling to deal honestly with the shooting of a teen. They knew what happened was unacceptable, yet remained silent, while the trigger-happy officer faced no charges--until a court ordered the video released.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declared that the video would not be released until a federal investigation was concluded. But now that the video has been released, Alvarez has suddenly filed charges against the police officer. Why not months ago? Why the cover-up? 

The Chicago Reporter just released an article that raises ever more questions.

This week, I give thanks to be able to celebrate with loved ones. I also give thanks to be a part of a community of clergy and concerned citizens that are willing to organize against injustice, that are prepared to ask challenging questions, that are committed to working together to seek fairness for all people, including transparency in the methods of investigating police conduct – and misconduct.

That’s the kind of America I want my children to live in, an America that is committed to becoming an ever more perfect union.

No comments:

Post a Comment