May we dispense with masks and lines

Dear President Trump,

I feel the need to point out that Presidents’ Day uses a plural possessive, which means this day is actually only 1/45th, or .022, about you and over time this fraction will decrease even more – hallejulah!

Ok, moving on, I want to circle back to yesterday’s church service, which was framed by Maya Angelou’s poem “The Mask.” When I looked it up I found that Angelou adapted the first two stanzas from a poem Paul Laurence Dunbar published in 1896 entitled “We Wear The Mask.” The original stanzas she added walk through the indignities African American women and men routinely endured (and endure) bowing and scraping to keep a job

Seventy years in these folks’ world
The child I works for calls me girl
I say ‘HA! HA! HA! Yes ma’am!’
For workin’s sake
I’m too proud to bend and
Too poor to break

and to survive and protect their families

My fathers speak in voices
That shred my fact and sounds
They say, but sugar, it was our submission
that made your world go round.

I also want to tell you about the children’s sermon. The woman who led it asked all the children to go to the front of the sanctuary and to bring one or two adults with them. She had them all stand together side-by-side and then asked them to turn like they were in line. She noted who was at the head of the line (a little white girl) and congratulated her on getting to go first (someone pointed out, though, that it might not be such a great thing to go first). And then she had everyone turn around and face the other way, at which point the white man who had been last was first.

Although symbolically it would have worked better to reverse the order, the point was clear – things can easily be flipped on their heads. Those of us who are used to being first, who take the prime spots for granted and don’t worry about whether there’ll be anything left when we get to the front of the line, we need to park all that unearned privilege.

The exercise also demonstrated, for me at least, that we need a new paradigm since sticking with lines like this means someone will always get more access and someone else will always get less access. Even if those who are currently last end up getting to go first (for a time), it’s clear this is no way to build a beloved community.

May we all be safe to be our full, unmasked selves.
May we be happy to let go of first/last (least) mentalities.
May we listen to our truth-tellers, especially when their truths are heard to bear.
May we make peace with the need for new paradigms.

Tracy Simpson

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