The Race Against Hate

June 19, 2015

The Race Against Hate was founded in memory of Ricky Byrdsong, former Northwestern University Basketball Coach, Vice President of Affairs at Aon Corporation, and Skokie resident who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1999 while walking in his neighborhood with two of his young children. On the same day, the shooter also wounded nine Orthodox Jews and killed a Korean graduate student. Because of Ricky's lifelong love of sports and his compelling work with young people in the community, the Race Against Hate was launched by his family and friends in 2000 (and entrusted to the YWCA Evanston/North Shore in 2007) to honor Ricky's legacy and bring attention to the need to combat hatred in all its forms.   - YWCA of Evanston

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We find ourselves 26 years later chilled by the news of the murder during Bible Study of nine people at a church in Charleston, SC.  Again, a lone male with a gun, purportedly a white supremacist, has not only destroyed lives and torn the fabric of family, friends, congregation, community, and nation but has reminded us that so very little has changed in the time since Coach Ricky Birdsong was cut down on the street in Evanston.  There is so much to say and yet there are so few words adequate to the situation. 

I scroll through Facebook this morning and I bristle at a well-meaning colleague's tag "We stand with Charleston."  No, 'standing with' in Facebook or bumper sticker parlance isn't doing it. I think of how 'standing' from the corner of white privilege or 'standing' in the manner "You go! We're with you!" has not been enough to reshape the relentless horror of racism. The governor of South Carolina was (I am certain, sincerely) tearful during a press conference as she spoke of her shock that the sanctity and safety of church had been violated, but such is not a surprise to the African-American community and it is sad that whole of this country fails to remember countless stories of black-church-as-target, including the martyrdom of four black girls at the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

The societal condition of Racism will not change without an enormous amount of focused, uncomfortable, painful, relentless work on the part of each person and especially each person that consciously or unconsciously benefits from the status quo.  Changing the pattern of nearly every kind of social, economic, and civic interaction in our society is an overwhelming prospect. And it is exactly this kind of breadth and depth of scope that harbors the chronic pattern which sorts people by race and ethnic identity into tiers of power and privilege.This means changing patterns whether it is the disparity among young male drivers being pulled over, or the gerrymandering of districts and voter identification laws that are targeted at certain populations. By counting headlines and the staggering number of mostly non-caucasian males shot by law enforcement officers in the last six months it seems that the tide of racism is swelling rather than receding. 

Sometime in Junior High school I learned about World War II. I was amazed at the constellation of world events, power grabs, assassinations, and national interests that swirled into the horror of war. I recall that I was astounded thinking about the average Christian citizen of Germany during the 1930s. With the kind of self-righteous indignation and non-complex thinking that is the mind of a 13 year old, I wondered how all those Lutherans and Catholics and assorted other Christians could stand by during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party in their country. I am 45 years older now, and now I too clearly understand how faith and yearning for justice can be waylaid by participation in a society where the compromise of justice for expediency and power is all too common. I must atone for the sin of judgement of others years ago and I must atone for my participation, and therefore complicity, in the present state of a nation where our reality is far from the values of equality cherished in our national identity and narrative.

So as I write this on Juneteenth, in a week that has brought the death of nine people at church, and on the weekend of the Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate I ask each of you to do somethingto stem the tide of racial inequality and endangerment of people.  

I ask you to raise or give money for the work of anti-racism education. You can do that by making a contribution through those running or walking in the Race Against Hate. I know parishioners Julie Kaufman and Deb DeManno are raising funds, and it happens Julie's link is here:  Julie Kaufman  

You could give money directly and cheer people on by going to Long Field on Sunday morning as early as 7:00am. Long Field is on Sheridan at the corner of Lincoln in Evanston.

You can find out more about the race and about the mission of the YWCA of Evanston to eradicate racism by visiting the race page:

The shooting of people in Emmanuel AME church was carried out by a young man using a gun that had been a gift from his father on his recent 21st birthday.   The power of the gun lobby continues to relentlessly push for greater access and possession of guns throughout this country. From Open Carry initiatives in Illinois and other states to special legislation in Colorado that burdens the plaintiff with the all the the legal costs of the defense in the event a lawsuit against an arms or ammunition manufacturer is ruled in favor of them, that powerful lobby has been effective in changing laws in their interest. If we want to see a reduction in easy access to firearms, the restriction of sales in pop-up gun shows, the registration of all weapons, and a culture that is not comfortable with firepower as a troupe for security, we must get to work! 

You may read the statements of Bishops United Against Gun Violence and realize that the are slightly different initiatives in various dioceses. Here in Chicago you can make a life-changing difference by giving a teenager a job through Crosswalk and the Youth Guidance program.   There are other civic initiatives as well. The work to reduce the tide of firearms must be more consistent and powerful than the gun lobby.

Finally, all of this work - painful, daring, and requiring sacrifice - is the work of the Gospel.  It requires nothing less than all of ourselves, and it is hopeless with nothing less than a passion for the Reign of God and the fullness of God's beautiful Creation. For any of us as disciples to attempt it with less than a habit of prayer and a heart for justice and mercy may mean that our interest and resolve fades into complicity again.

I commend to you words that have fed people for centuries: 

A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.


O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life. AMEN


May Christ have mercy upon us.

- Jeannette  +