People in the northern region of Punjab, India, are in awe at the sight of the Himalayan mountain range, which is currently visible from more than 100 miles. Due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus lockdown, this majestic mountain range stands tall on the horizon line once again. One resident wrote, “For the first time in almost 30 years (I) could clearly see the Himalayas due to India’s lockdown clearing air pollution. Just amazing.”
Our own COVID-19 lockdown can be viewed similarly. The things that pollute our lives and lifestyles — the landscape of our homes, neighborhoods, communities, and country have become increasingly visible with shocking clarity. It was through the slowing down, a forced slow down, that the mountain range came into full view. Some of the mountains that we’ve set our eyes upon have been, like the majestic Himalayas, similarly beautiful. Time with family. Simplicity of our schedule. The lack of rush from activity to activity. For some of us, the pressure of these last 10 weeks have produced diamonds.
But, like the impoverished residents of Punjab, the mountain of racism, too often obscured by the pollution of privilege, ignorance and arrogance — like Everest, rises high above them all once again. And with great clarity for hundreds and hundreds of miles and for hundreds and hundreds of years, we can see this mountain once again is on fire.
This is a fire fueled by systemic injustice and too many personal tragedies. Embers breathed upon time and time again by the structure of power that guide and govern our lives and livelihoods. Power structures that have been in place before the foundations of a nation. Power structures that were codified into the documents that are the bedrock of our country.
This mountain is well known and the path to the summit is well worn. The numbered trail markers tell the story. 1600 the North American slave trade. 1800 the economics of the cotton industry. 1831 Nat Turner’s revolt. 1861 the Civil War. 1896 separate but equal. Keep hiking, we’ve got more mountains to climb. 1947 Jackie Robinson. 1955 Emmett Till. 1955 Rosa Parks. 1963 the Birmingham church bombing. 1963. 1964. 1965. 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated. Keep climbing… 1992 Rodney King. 2008 Barack Obama. 2013 Trayvon Martin. 2016 Colin Kaepernick. 2017. 2018. 2019. 2020 George Floyd.
We can all see the mountain. Out the front window. Out the back window. We see it to the east on the way to work. And yet oddly just as prominent to the west as we send our young people to school, and jail … and prison. This mountain of racism casts a shadow on our business practices and educational opportunities. The mountain rises high over cornfields and dwarfs skyscrapers of every cityscape. There is nowhere it can’t be seen. The Spirit of Justice, Reconciliation and Redemption cries out as billows of smoke and fire rise from the mountain’s peaks.
“Keep climbing!” she says to the faithful who are tired and weary. “Speak out! Start climbing!” she pleads with others.
Or, let your view once again be polluted by privilege, ignorance and arrogance. Obscured vision will not change the fact that racism sits large on the landscape. And today the fire is raging.
Robb Morgan and his wife, Julie, co-pastor the Delaware City Vineyard in Delaware. Robb served on the pastoral staff at the Vineyard Church of Delaware County for four years. In September 2009, the Morgans planted the Delaware City Vineyard. The Morgans have served as area leaders in the Vineyard for 10-plus years. They’ve been married for 18 years and have two daughters, Emma and Via.