In the late 60’s, I was a camp counselor. I remember having a group of young Girl Scouts out in canoes on a very sunny day. Back in the day, sun protection was a brimmed hat and a t-shirt. So after a few hours, as the sun rose high, I asked some of the campers to please put their shirts on over their swim suits. One of the campers, Rita, called out “Hey, we get sunburned too, you know.” The girls had quickly identified that I had called out names of only the white campers. I still remember what lake we were on, how many canoes of campers I had, and how shocked I was, at me. I was concerned about protecting just some of my campers. Why had I assumed that dark skin was impervious to sun burn? That was over 50 years ago. Sadly, I still make assumptions and judgments. I’m still learning.
As a global community, we have been learning for a number of months now, how to manage the pandemic of COVID-19. The learning curve has been steep and much of our leadership has been strong and smart. We have stayed home, we have experienced the locked doors of businesses and our beloved Basilica, and we have worn masks and stopped hugging. It has been a huge effort; a lot to endure, but we were making it.
Then suddenly, on May 25, the pandemic for many was all but forgotten as we reeled in anguish and sorrow over the murder of George Floyd, another other tragic, needless death. Our inboxes filled with messages, responses from schools, businesses, news organizations, and churches--giving counsel, offering support, stating positions, and grieving.
The Pandemic of COVID-19 was surpassed by the Pandemic of Racial Injustice. Similar to the multiple changes COVID-19 demanded, a myriad of changes are demanded in response to racial injustice.
I need to change. I learned to decrease my exposure to COVID-19 and I must learn to increase my exposure to racial injustice.
This is an unprecedented or at least a very uncommon period in our history, a time that is for some, creating extra responsibilities with new methods and technologies, and for others an agonizing wait for unemployment checks, a frantic search for an open pharmacy or grocery, all while working to maintain a hopeful place of refuge for children and family, in all, an overwhelming task. We are busy, we are uncertain, we are grieving. Additionally, we are hopeful, we are praying, we are working, we are protesting.
So much has changed for so many of us in so many ways in a rather short time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and so much must change for so many of us in so many ways in what has been an agonizingly long time due to the pandemic of racial injustice.
I hope that soon I will again be playing with and listening to and rubbing sunscreen onto the little arms and shoulders of my grandchildren. I hope also I always remember that there are many other children requiring understanding and protection.
By Cathy Edwards