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I'm feeling a wee bit more radical than usual tonight as a result. There's been something on my mind that I've been wanting to write about for some time; it's doesn't feel like a big deal, and at the same time it feels hard to articulate. This combo is why I haven't tackled it yet, but tonight is pushing me over the edge. These little things that don't feel like big deals, maybe we need to give them more air time. And maybe I can't articulate it as well as I'd like, but I'm going to try.
So this is my attempt to give a little air time to justice tonight.
I'd like to talk about naming people.
I've now named two little people; the process for us has not been easy for either child. But we've taken it seriously because naming a person is a big deal. People do it every day, so we forget, but in the Bible this is not something that is taken lightly. Some snapshots of how this has played out:
Adam names the animals.
Adam names Eve after sin's consequences enter the story.
God renames many of our fathers and mothers -- Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Saul -- all are renamed.
In the Biblical birth narratives, women do most of the naming.
Ancient people named places to remind themselves of important things.
God's name itself is special, unspoken by millions even to today.
Power and authority are key components of naming people. I get to name my children because I am their mother.
So, dear people of privilege, this is why we should stop naming other people groups, and why we should stop using names that were unjustly thrust upon others without privilege. Just to be clear about what I'm referencing, here are a few examples:
Indian (unless they are actually of Indian descent, as in, the country of India)
N***** (I can barely even write it like that; White guilt going bananas)
For those who still don't get why this is so offensive and unjust, imagine this:
You live in a small, quiet house in Cleveland. Your name is Joe Jones. Someone from across the world randomly shows up on your front lawn and tells you that your name is now Clifford Longeburger, and your house is actually in a town named Scottsdale. You've never met this person, and he is not your mama or your dada or your deity.
Seriously, just imagine this happens and it's not a joke. Then he starts drawing up documents to prove that his names for your world are the right ones.
If you have any sense of identify, you're going to be like, "Hellllllllllll no, my name is NOT Clifford Longeburger, buddy. It's Joe Jones. And this is Cleveland, not Scottsdale." But, he has the power -- guns, germs, and steel most likely. So, he changes your name without your permission, changes the name of your town and expects everyone to adapt. And if you don't, you die. Like, die. You see one neighbor die and then you're probably going to suck it up and learn to survive, but a part of your heart is broken forever.
This has happened time and time again, and it's not something that is okay. It robs people of integrity, and when we continue to use these names, we perpetuate deeply-entrenched systems of injustice.
I know this seems obvious to 90% of you, and the other 10% probably think this is not a big deal and definitely not worth blogging about. I mean, come on Laura, you've basically blogged thrice in the past two years. Right, I know. But tonight, this feels more important -- it feels more important that each of us grow in our understanding of justice. It feels important that we listen to one another so that we can learn how to grant dignity to everyone. Perhaps if we start by listening about small things, we can develop the muscles to listen about bigger things.
This is me, doing one of the only things I feel like I can do to fight against the darkness tonight.
Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. If history bends toward justice, please help us see it, taste it, smell it, hear it ringing out.