After he learned of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April of 1968, Robert Kennedy recited from memory this passage from Aeschylus:
He spoke those words to unspool a thread of meaning and hope at another time of upheaval and despair in our nation. I’ve never forgotten them.
I was sickened by that video of a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, hand in pocket, like a hunter who has subdued his prey. We know that acts of savage denial of the humanity of Black people happen every single day outside of a camera’s view. And we know from our work that our child welfare and juvenile justice systems themselves perpetuate racism and generational poverty.
I confess that I did not know how to speak to my own children about all of this. I went for the tried and now seemingly tired message about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But that arc has been very long with respect to racism in America and it will take deep, radical change to get us there any time soon.
We must also remember the trauma and anxiety all our children are experiencing watching the searing images in the midst of a pandemic that has upended their lives and challenged the very idea that this country will survive in a form able to support their dreams and aspirations for the future.
The raw anguish and fury in the protests happening across the US speak to the institutionalized racism that has persisted for hundreds of years and to the frustration of so many of us that our leaders have been largely unresponsive. We can’t fix all these problems, but in our work we should continue to loudly decry and disrupt systems that unjustly target and oppress communities of color.
This season has brought pain upon pain upon our hearts, but more than ever we have been reminded of the urgency and need to ensure a more equitable world for the kids we serve and the generations that follow. I truly believe that even as broken and unjust as our society is, the wisdom and will to change will come – if only through the awful grace of God.