By Rev. Susan Brims, East District Missional Strategist & Superintendent
It took two years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 for word to make its way to Texas that slaves were freed persons. For over two years black people suffered horribly under the rule of white slave owners, whose prejudice saw them as less than human.
After General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston in 1865 one of the first things he did was to read what is known as General Order #3, which included these powerful words:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” (https://juneteenth.com/)
Prejudice erased the two-year lag from our history books. Prejudice has erased most of black history from our history books and history classes. Prejudice has kept the words in General Order #3 there being “absolute equality of rights and rights of property” from becoming reality even to this day. Prejudice is still present, even now, as we watch people who have no ability to view others with compassion or empathy create division in our land.
Dictionary.com defines prejudice in the following way:
- an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
- unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group.
It’s time things change. We are, after all, the people of God. Our faith-filled work is to dismantle racism, confront prejudice and hate, and live in ways that make God’s love, justice, and mercy a reality for all people.
One tiny step in accomplishing this change begins with the recognition of Juneteenth this week. The Conference and District Offices will be closed this Friday in honor of Juneteenth. While this may be a declared holiday I would invite you to use the day off in the following way:
Step One – For those who do not understand what Juneteenth is about, spend time reading about the history of racism in our country.
Step Two – Learn about the legacy of strength and grace of the black people who endured prejudice, hate and violence.
Step Three – Spend time in prayer and self-reflection, examining the prejudices you hold in your own heart. Acknowledge that implicit bias is real and learn.
Step Four – Confess the prejudices that you carry against others and repent of the sin that keeps you from seeing others in God’s light.
Step Five – Commit to live differently, learning daily about your own implicit biases, questioning how you might embody God’s love for all people.
The power of prejudice is only overcome when we take off the blinders and begin to see others through the eye’s of God’s love and grace. Overcoming prejudice must be a matter of the heart. It will take work, lots of work. Yet it needs to be done.
As the Conference and District Offices are closed this Friday may we have the awareness that Juneteenth comes as a gift to all of us, if we will learn and grow from the message of this day.
Your sister on the Journey,