As people of faith, we have crafted a sinister sense of what it means to stand in solidarity.
In the book written by the mother of Amadou Diallo (remember him?), “I Carry My Heart Across The Waters,” the mother says she wrote the book because “the only thing worse than you killing his body is you killing his story too.” So she takes ownership of his story.
A key determinant of liberation is who owns the story.
I believe this is why in Exodus, when God replies to the cries of bondage, it is Moses who he calls.
Moses is an Israelite. It’s his story.
I believe this is why in Luke, when the bent over woman comes to hear Jesus, Jesus calls her to the center of worship and then straightens her back. He can heal her from a distance, but then her pain is no longer central to the “loosing of her body.”
Those who are in pain must be at the center of the story.
And it is critical that those who are at the center of the pain not be washed away in our privileged waves of goodwill.
It is their story. Their journey.
And they must lead us through the wilderness of this (their) moment. This is the only way liberation occurs.
But for those of us who hold privilege in various places, liberation is a foreign construct. We do not recognize it and we reach for emancipation in its stead.
We struggle to stand with as opposed to standing for. We are intoxicated with the notion of freeing some folk.
But God does not emancipate. God liberates. God never assigns the ultimate responsibility for freedom to those outside of the community of the oppressed because freedom at the hands of another comes with new chains.
I believe this is why it is essential to the story that Jesus came from “the hood.”
Liberation is a God act, and it is always led from within.
So this requires us to take a stand, but not take over. To open doors, but not screen invitees. To offer platforms, but not control the narrative.
The question is not whether or not, as a leader, I have the capacity to speak to the pain of varying communities. The question is whether I have the wisdom not to.
Rev. Traci Blackmon is a national officer in the United Church of Christ.