By Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund
Every July people of faith gather at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry at our Haley Farm servant leadership training site. This year, the call by all major faiths to protect children and welcome the stranger has become an urgent and deafening roar that should grow until our political leaders abandon their cruel policies tearing children from their parents for seeking safe haven in our nation.
Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri, was a moving Great Preacher at the 2017 Proctor Institute. This year she spoke on June 30th before the 30,000 people gathered for Washington, D.C.’s “Families Belong Together” Rally, one of more than 700 rallies and marches held that day in cities and towns across America to protest the Trump Administration’s harsh zero tolerance immigration policies, reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban, and the evil and ongoing separation of immigrant children from their parents.
Her words that morning were a history lesson, warning, and call to action. Here, with her permission, is what Rev. Blackmon told the crowd:
I’ve come to remind us this morning, we’ve been here before. I know it feels brand new, but it’s not.
We’ve been here before. America has been here before. Black and brown people who have been historically oppressed and marginalized in this country and erased from our historical narrative have been here before.
And here we are again. Declaring ourselves to be “one nation under God” and yet, daring to curse that which God has blessed.
God is God of the whole world. God cares for all of creation.
Who is this God whose name we declare as we legislate evil in God’s name?
I am reminded of the warning of the prophet Isaiah who declares in the 1st Testament:
Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10)
What we are witnessing at our borders with black and brown families today is not who America has become. This is who America has always been. This has been this nation’s response whenever its false god of whiteness is threatened.
This too is our story.
America snatched Indigenous children from their families and their land.
In the name of God.
America snatched enslaved children from their families for subjugation and control. In the name of God.
America snatched Japanese American children from their families fueled by fabricated fear. In the name of God.
America snatched a quarter of a million predominantly black and brown children from parents who are caged in a prison industrial complex that is too profitable for the few to be re-evaluated for the sake of the many. In the name of God.
America snatched over 30,000 children and caged them in juvenile detention centers where we would rather incarcerate them than educate them. In the name of God.
This is not as much about safe immigration policy as it is about separatist ideology.
And people of faith must not be silent in the face of a god we do not serve.
OUR SILENCE WILL NOT SAVE US!
The legislation of evil does not make it holy.
Our Supreme Court is wrong on this one.
And the Court has been wrong before.
In 1857, the Court was wrong when they ruled against freedom in Dred Scott vs. Sanford.
In 1883, the Court was wrong when they ruled to uphold anti-miscegenation laws in Pace vs. Alabama.
In 1896, the Court was wrong when they ruled to uphold separate but equal legislation in Plessy vs. Ferguson.
In 1944, the Court was wrong when they decided the alleviation of white American fear outweighed the civil liberties of Japanese Americans in Korematsu vs. America.
And in this current day, the Court is wrong again. The Court is wrong to uphold racially motivated policies that exclude black and brown immigrants from the opportunity for freedom.
And just as all those other wrong, racist decisions have been overturned, this one will be as well.
Because there is a higher judge than the Supreme Court. A higher law not made by man. A moral law by which all people of faith must live.
And that law is LOVE!
People of faith must lead with LOVE.
People of faith must legislate with LOVE.
People of faith must be governed by LOVE.
People of faith must fight. Always. For LOVE.
If it is not LOVE…It is not GOD.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
History shows us, we’ve been this way before. And history tells us — LOVE WILL WIN!
Keep fighting my friends.
WE STAND ON THE SIDE OF LOVE!