” I am called to love…”
Recently while attending “Race Talks”, a forum designed to increase talk between people of differing ethnic and racial backgrounds, I was struck by statements that illustrate what I have come to believe: Those that are oppressed, save us all, even in their oppression. Recently I read Victor Frankle’s ” The Meaning of Man” and one of his core statements about his experience was “we know the best of us did not survive”. In my meager interpretation, I understand this to mean that those that offered non-violent resistance during the Holocaust, or shared food, gave up a warmer seat for another, often, did not survive. I wonder too if maybe this statement highlights a condition I have seen in survivors around a sense of guilt that they survived and others didn’t. In such madness, how can there be any clear logic about what would allow one to survive and not another? However, it relates to this idea that those that died and suffered ahead of us, also continue to save us…even in their death and suffering. We don’t want that suffering to go without honor…without purpose and we don’t want to succumb to the same power, greed and unconsciousness that allowed the situation to occur. Their acts of goodness and kindness change “eye for an eye” thinking, reminding all of the best inside all of us. So, it is with this thought in mind, that I listened to the panelist and other speakers during Race Talks as they recounted hate crimes in our community and their responses.
One speaker spoke of how he, as a child, was called vile names by the police as he walked his bike down his own neighborhood street. His childhood innocence and strong home nurturing, helped him to simply define the racist policeman as the anomaly and move on. However, later, and after a lifetime of standing against hate crimes, when his place of business was burned because he was a black business owner, he, honest about the anger and hurt….still claimed love as his only response. I don’t have many words that seem eloquent and worthy to describe this way of life. It speaks for itself I think. Simple. Powerful. It says if this man is capable of love, so am I. In this way, a path of being “saved” or freedom is shown through oppression.
In another story, an elder from the Albina community spoke of how section 8, building of the Collesium, Lloyd Center and Emmanuel hospital parceled out the residents of their historic black neighborhood, destroying homes and jobs. She described some of the pain and losses related to losing the young families that moved out and at the loss of a black center of business along Albina street. However, she summed up all her stories with the statement…”but I am called to love”. Again, I was humbled by the conviction in her voice and the freedom she lived in.
I honestly left that night wondering how to balance this call to love with the necessary activism of justice. Some ideas were offered: When hate crimes go to court, show up at the trial, stand with the victims. When a hate crime happens in your community, whether or work or in your residential community, stand with the victim and publicly state that such action is not ok here. The victim needs to know your support and the entire community needs to clarify its beliefs through such actions. We had the opportunity to stand and applaud the strength of the victims who spoke at Race Talks that night. The rhythm of the standing applause sunk into my soul. I was honored to be a part of it. I was saved a bit that night by listening to the voices and hearing the lives lived in love by those who have every reason to hate. They break the cycle of hate every day, over and over again. I believe they also transform every day situations into acts of justice. They save us all.