a letter to my girls

My dear girls,
Here’s what’s in the news
and heavy on my mind and heart today:

In the town of Charlottesville in Virginia,
at the University of Virginia, my alma mater,
a woman was badly hurt by a group of young men.
We’ll call her Jackie, but that’s not her real name,
because, you see, she’s afraid of speaking the truth.
The boys were in a fraternity
which is a group of boys that live together.
They were probably drinking.
And when young men drink and are in a big group,
they can do things that are evil.

Now that by itself is bad enough,
but then people didn’t believe Jackie
when she she started telling people what happened.
And the school—the people in charge at the school
are not punishing the fraternity—
not holding it responsible.
They say they don’t want to hurt anyone who might be innocent
because Jackie said it was seven boys who hurt her,
and there are a lot more than seven boys in the fraternity.
The school also doesn’t want to damage its reputation
or hurt its donations.

I’m not one of the people making decisions for the school.
I’m not worried about the money.
Nor do I think you worry about hurting your reputation
by dealing with truth.
I’m part of the community of God—
called to live into love and to speak words full of truth and grace.
And the school was wrong.
Whatever information we may not have—
however many boys are in that fraternity—
and whoever they may be.

Was the whole fraternity involved?
Probably not.
But there were the seven that were,
and those that knew what was happening and did nothing
and those who were involved the time before,
and those who will be involved the next time.
Because this happens way too much.
It happened too much before Jackie.
It’s happened too much since Jackie.
One in four women in colleges are badly hurt by men.
Too many girls and women
are hurt, and not believed,
and made to feel like it’s their fault
because they’re female
and because people don’t want to admit the way things really are.

The problem in not shutting down the fraternity
is that that’s a way of saying the system’s not guilty.
And it is.
The way things are is wrong.
And so we are all guilty,
because no one is innocent
when the system is guilty.

This past summer, in a town called Ferguson in Missouri,
a police officer killed a black young man.
His name was Michael.
He was eighteen years old.
He and a friend were walking down the middle of the street,
when Darren, that’s the police officer’s name,
who was responding to a robbery report,
asked or told them to get on the sidewalk.
And we don’t know for sure what happened then,
but Michael ended up dead.

Now when someone kills someone,
there’s always an investigation
even if that someone is a police officer.
One step in that process is
that a grand jury decides if that person—
even if it’s a police officer—
should be indicted—
if they should be accused of a crime
and the case should go to court.

This is not about whether someone’s innocent or guilty,
but about whether we need to know more.

The grand jury, last night, decided the police officer
was not guilty of a criminal act,
and so there won’t be a case.

Now maybe they have information we don’t.

I’m not a part of a court of law though.
I’m part of the community of God—
called to live into love and to speak words full of truth and grace.
And the grand jury was wrong.
Whatever happened—
whatever information they may have that we do not.

Because it happens way too much.
It happened too much before Michael.
It’s happened too much since Michael.
Too many black children and black men and black women
are hurt and accused and put in jail and killed,
just because they’re black.

I’m not saying the jury should have found the police officer guilty
if they really didn’t think he was.
The problem is that saying he’s not guilty
is a way of saying the system’s not guilty.
And it is.
The way things are is wrong,
and we seem completely unable to admit
we’re not who we say we are.
To have the only word be that Darren will not be indicted
is wrong—
criminally wrong,
and it’s all of us who are guilty.

Too much,
I think of you two—
of your trust—
your openness to meeting different and other
as gift and opportunity …
and my heart hurts.

I pray for you both,
not just for your safety,
but for a culture—a country—a world—
worthy of your best.

Maybe—maybe, what we’re seeing today,
in the news,
in the tears and the anger and the suffering,
is the system—
the white system—
the white patriarchal system—
figuring out that it’s on its way out—
and so very angry—
so very scared.
Maybe these are some of the last painful steps to a better reality.
But if so, too many are being dragged kicking
and screaming their ignorance.

Women and people of color,
in the fullness of their God created dignity,
their status as beloved children of God,
as manifestations of God’s own glorious self,
are a threat
to those
in control—
the ones losing control
I hope and I pray.

I love you both so very much—

Dad, a “prisoner of hope”


4 thoughts on “a letter to my girls

    1. sorry, David, for the tardy response.
      I check these things too rarely!
      and now, of course, the moment is past,
      but I did think it was on facebook?
      I try to set notifications so that it would have been.

    1. thank you, Robert. yes it does.
      though I don’t believe it does anything to negate what I say.
      as a UVA grad, I’ve been on Rugby Road.
      I would not want my daughter at most of those parties.
      whatever the facts are in this particular case,
      I hope they don’t derail a conversation that needs to happen
      about a societal and systemic denigration and objectification of women.

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