Prayers and thoughts after a tragedy in Buffalo

May 15, 2022
Beloveds of the Mountain Sky Conference,

Earlier this week, I was angered by the news accounts of what happened when a bus was pulled over by Georgia police for an alleged traffic violation. The bus was chartered for Delaware State University, an historically black college, and was filled with women’s lacrosse team members (most of whom were black), returning home after playing their final game in Florida.

The traffic stop quickly turned into a drug search, as sheriffs began rifling through the women’s luggage. There was no warrant, no reason presented. The women later told their story and how traumatized the stop was for them. I remember feeling incensed by the sheriffs’ violation of these women’s personal property. No traffic ticket was given, and no drugs were found. However, a group of black women were subject to harassing behavior and left with trauma because of racial profiling.

Last night I returned to the Denver area to learn of the Buffalo supermarket shooting. An 18-year-old man armed with an assault weapon and full tactical gear opened fire in a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, killing 10 people and wounding 3 others. This act of domestic terrorism was racially motivated, fueled by hate and fear found in white supremacist theories. The shooter was methodical in his planning, studying demographics of his region before finding the community with the largest concentration of African Americans. He then travelled more than three hours in order to kill and maim.

It is not only the people of Buffalo who are now recovering from this heinous act. African Americans across our nation are again retraumatized as old messages, wounds, and violence resurface in the face of the shooting.

We have been praying for an end for a war a half a world away, seeing the impact of bloody violence on the lives of everyday people in the Ukraine. But we have failed to see, acknowledge, and deal with a war within our own borders that has been going on for hundreds of years. The war that has been waged through the teaching and support systems of white supremacy has left untold casualties in communities of color.

It is time for we who follow Jesus to wage peace against this bloody war. It is time for us to live into our baptismal covenant, to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves”. It is time for us to learn our nation’s history fully—the good as well as the parts that are hard to study. It is time for us to speak out, stand up, and challenge racist speech, policy, and actions. It is time for us to dismantle racism.

The stench, stain and sin of racism is all around us. Disciples of Jesus, may we not fall into a slumber that denies this reality. May we rise with Love’s power and do all we can so that no one need to walk in fear because of the color of their skin.

Bishop Karen P. Oliveto