Moses said, “The Lord has called by name Bezalel … to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.” – Exodus 35:32-33 (NRSV)
You can pack a backpack in an artistic way, or you can just pack a backpack. Beautiful backpacks have everything you need and have evicted everything you don’t need. Beautiful backpacks don’t have old bruised apples in them or baggies from long-gone tuna sandwiches. They have notebooks. They have well-packaged snacks. They are cleaned out from yogurt spills. They are always too heavy when they could be light.
Peggy McIntosh famously described white privilege as an “invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
We whites could redesign our invisible backpacks. We could take out the maps that direct us to places where we keep our mouth shut when we could speak. We could take out the passports that take us on vacations from justice. We can take out the easy mortgages and monitor what our bank is doing and why. We can remove the opportunity hoarding, the willful ignorance about land and labor, the guilt that holds us back from courage.
Anti-racist churches could redecorate their interiors. Reconsider white Jesus. Redesign our blousy words about anti-racism and repack worship with attention to the Pentecost happening this year.
We who are white owe debts that we can never repay. As large as those debts are, we bask in God’s powerful forgiveness, which is even larger than our debts and calls us to artistic work.
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those of others and ourselves. Let us fulfill your command to be artists. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.