By Maurice L. Harris
You are invited to view the Where Do We Go from Here? video series, which can be accessed online here: https://vimeopro.com/diovermont/where-do-we-go-from-here
Where do we go from here? I sat down to write this introduction to Season 1 of Where Do We Go from Here? just after reading the news that NLF owners had decided unanimously to levy fines against players who choose to kneel during the national anthem. This was disappointing news but not at all surprising, considering that neither the NFL commissioner nor any of the 32 team owners are African-American. The gesture, as you may recall, began with Colin Kaepernick in 2016, as a statement against police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. Since then, other players, black and non-black have joined in. As reporter Khadrice Rollins (2018) explained in a recent Sports Illustrated article:
Kaepernick initially sat during the anthem when he first started the protest, but switched to kneeling after speaking with former Army Green Beret and NFL long snapper Nate Boyer. Boyer wrote an open letter to Kaepernick after learning of his protest, and the two agreed that kneeling would be a way to present Kaepernick’s message without disrespecting the armed forces or the flag. (Rollins, 2018)
But today, as players who choose to kneel in allegiance to our flag—while calling attention to our nation’s deeply terrifying faults—are branded as disrespectful and unpatriotic by a wealthy and decidedly non-black minority, it reminds me of a time when black people were publicly lashed or lynched for resisting injustice and the non-black allies who stood with them often shared their fate.
“Among the moral imperatives of our time, we are challenged to work all over the world with unshakable determination to wipe out the last vestiges of racism” (King, 2010, Kindle Locations 2542-2543). The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words some fifty years ago in his book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? So, where do we go from here when it appears that neither racism nor the violence that comes with it have dissipated over time but instead have metamorphosed from blatantly overt expressions to more covert depredations? If you had asked me this question just 15 weeks ago, I might have focused on how far we’ve come as a nation. It is common to think that the US is moving in a largely positive direction as far as racial equality is concerned. King recognized this, too. But, in the words of comedian Hari Kondabolu (Kondabolu in Goldthwait, 2018), the problem with such thinking is that people of color have to put up with the indignities of racism just a little while longer, while some other privileged class enjoys a life of relative ease (or thinks they do). And, like Hari, when I consider the current rate of change, I’m just not willing to wait. Everyone deserves to experience an abundant life here and now.
Each of us has the power to speed the world’s trajectory toward a just society, perhaps even to realize the beloved community in our lifetime. However, we have some work to do. And we can only do “the work” when we’ve correctly identified “the work” that needs to get done. It was in this spirit that I produced a video series, duly titled, Where Do We Go from Here? I wanted to understand what work needs to get done specifically within the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, where I serve as communications minister. Libraries today carry an overwhelming array of anti-racism training resources. Many of these resources emanate from racially-diverse urban communities and focus on social change nationally, but the people of the Vermont Diocese have expressed a desire for change within their local churches and rural towns, which are composed almost entirely of white people who do not identify with the wealth and privilege portrayed in much of the literature. The main objective of the Where Do We Go from Here? video series was to tease out some priorities by Vermonters for Vermonters. You are invited to view the Where Do We Go from Here? video series, which can be accessed online here: https://vimeopro.com/diovermont/where-do-we-go-from-here
Goldthwait, B. (2018). Hari Kondabolu: Warn your relatives [Netflix video]. Netflix.
King, M. L. (2010). Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? (King Legacy). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Rollins, K. (2018, May 23). Why do NFL players kneel during the national anthem? [News]. Retrieved May 26, 2018, from https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/05/23/why-do-players-kneel-during-national-anthem