Heirlooms and Accessories: I’m not taking this! LOOK!

As previously stated in our group’s last post, we are a bunch of white folks studying African-American liberation theology. Our group is not only trying our very best to really see and fight against the direct and indirect racial prejudices in our world that we will never experience ourselves, but also to better know and understand God through this pain, suffering, and redemption. What we are continually experiencing and do have control over, is what we are doing to either be accessories to this crime, or allies in justice to our African-American family.

After reading Karen Fletcher-Baker’s seventh chapter from her book Dancing with God, entitled More than Suffering, our group was struck with the story of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy who was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His mother, Mamie, held an open-casket funeral that lasted four days. Though his body was horribly mutilated, Mamie called for the world to look. She stated, “I’m not taking this! LOOK! Look, world, don’t you see? Look at my son’s face! Look at this body! World, get delivered of your demons and look!”. She gave an opportunity to the world to repent.

Even while looking at pictures, I almost only posted one of this handsome boy before his death. His extremely battered face and body is uncomfortable to see, but that misses Mamie’s message in totality.

In discussion, we found that this story directly correlated with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary stood by Jesus’ body on the cross and experienced the pain differently than anyone else. It was truly her own flesh and blood dying- her child dying. She picked up her own cross by standing with him and taking care of his body. How often do we want the suffering to just go away instead of hoping for relief through healing? How often do we unload our own discomfort of what we see in ourselves, within the other? Mary kept her hope in waiting for Jesus’ return, though it was painful and bleak. Mamie kept her’s in faith of liberation to racism.

None of us know what it is like to be the mother of a son who faces daily hatred, just for being. We can look at stories of marginalized women, like Mary and Mamie, to gain compassion and maybe a trace of their pain to empathize. We can look at what has been made to be ugly and unrecognizable, and be voices who demand justice. We can do our best to look at what has been given to us as heirlooms and what we are being accessories to. But first, we must look.

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