by Carolyn Roncolato
The black students of University of Missouri have been on my heart these last two weeks. I am moved by their bravery, their wisdom, their furry, and their joy in the fight against deep and pervasive racism. Their struggle for justice calls to mind one of my favorite images from the Hebrew Bible…
“Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?’ “ (Proverbs 1:20-22).
This scene from Proverbs sounds a lot like the Mizzou parade in which the black students of Concerned Student 1950 stood in the street, blocked traffic and yelled out their truth, using megaphones to tell story after story of campus racism. White onlookers yelled for them to get out of the street and celebrated when police removed them.
“How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”
When the president gave yet one more insufficient answer, a protestor told a journalist. “He is not only a white man with privilege, but he also has educational privilege. And he is still not utilizing his resources to get educated on systems of oppression that these students immortalize in a community space every single day.”
“How long will you love being simple.”
Mizzou students call me back to woman Wisdom yelling in the streets, reminding me that anger is a part of God. When we embody this sacred furry, we are incarnating the God of justice and doing work for the kindom. As we know, anger can be both life giving and life destroying so the question is what makes the difference. In the case of Mizzou, it was a community of solidarity. Racism seeks to separate and wants it victims alone and disempowered. At Mizzou a movement stirred as people shared story after story. As a community they were able to draw deep on the collective anger and move forward. According to process theology, God is incarnated in the relationships between us. This means that when these students shared their stories and gathered in collective action they were more than the sum of their parts. They became the walking, chanting, striking, praying, moving body of God.
I am taking this not just as one more story about institutional racism but more importantly as a story of really brave students, and the power you have when Wisdom is on your side.