During a recent course in my graduate program of study, I was given an assignment to write on attacks of sacred sites. I thought of the attack on Historic Black churches here in the US, which is also an attack on Black lives. That’s it: This is a story about hatred. Racism is at the root of hatred toward Black people; burning down their places of worship is an attack on their very being because these not only represent their religious identity, but also their history of resilience and survival in America. Can American society be cured of racism?
I think too about the sacredness of all of life, which makes the places where life survives sacred as well. This means that an attack on these places is an attack on the lives that survive in these places. Here, I must emphasize the sacredness of all lives. How much truer is the sacredness of all life, then during this time of a global pandemic. Covid-19 has proven that there is no color boundary during this pandemic; everyone is at risk. However, because of racism (and hatred), and the stigmas that result, Black people have been hit harder by the virus. From my cultural context, I can tell you that many Africans live with a duel fear at this time – they are scared of the pandemic, and they are scared of the threat from their white counterparts.
I must admit, I was furious when I first heard about French Dr. Jean-Paul Mira’s, suggestion in the spring of 2020 that the continent of Africa was the best place to test a Covid-19 vaccine. He noted: “Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things, because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves?” Mira’s comments made international news, with decries of “racism.” And though he later apologized, his comments made a greater impact than his apology.
What do we learn from this pandemic? Whether burning buildings in North America, or abhorrent racism directed toward Africa, Black lives are attacked and dehumanized.
What do I say about the killing of George Floyd (RIP) by the white Minneapolis police officer and the recent deaths of two other Black people, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor? Help Black people; be their ally. Help create a world where people of color can live their lives without fear. Hear the cries of your fellow humans and stop racism. What will you commit to doing? What effective actions can you – can we as a society – take to prevent such unwarranted death and to seek justice? The killing of Floyd caused a lot of rage and violence (https://www.nytimes.com/). Should violence solve violence? Should hatred stop hatred and racism?
I want to emphasize that no matter what, life is life. It is sacred. Race-consciousness matters; my skin color, yours, and where we come from in this world matter. Let us stop acts of racism according to skin color and race. How about this for the world: If only we could recognize and respect the sacredness of all life. If only we could avoid or stop any kind of attack on others as sites of the sacred. “What is sacred is elusive like a spider web unseen until it catches the light,” notes the 2003 The Sacred Land Reader. During this global pandemic, can we agree that the sacredness of all life is elusive like a spider web, and yet so precious?
Can this world pandemic (this encounter) help us to appreciate all lives and stop acts of racism against skin color and race? Can this pandemic remove the stigmas that have been placed on Africans, illuminating the truth that their lives are sacred like all other lives? Can we come away from this crisis and begin healing past wrongs and treating each other with dignity, in spite of our differences? What can you do to make these things possible?
All life is sacred. Let us see life beyond color and race.
Has there ever been a time when you consciously, or even unconsciously, wished that something bad which had hit your area would have hit another place?
Make a list of about ten things (just ten things good or bad) that come to mind when you think about Africans. Reflect on why these came to mind first. What do they reveal about your own and/or the world’s biases, stigma, and presuppositions about Africans? What can be done to help remove the negative aspects of these?
Paskazia Nakitende is an international student and a Daughter of Mary Sister from Uganda. She graduated with her BA in Theology and Religious Studies in 2019 from Seattle University and is continuing her education to get an MA in Pastoral Studies. Paskazia wishes to stand with those who suffer from low self-esteem.