Kara (Skatrud) Baylor ’92 is a campus pastor at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. She delivered a version of this speech at an event on the Carthage campus and posted it on July 4 on her blog, Pissed-Off Pastor, which addresses racism in the US. The speech has been edited for length. For the full text, visit pissedoffpastor.org.
The scripture text that many churches are using this weekend is from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 11.
The words of Jesus that start the reading are these: “To what shall I compare this generation?” Jesus goes on to tell those gathered that their generation is basically a bunch of whiny children who push back when confronted with uncomfortable truths. Jesus points out that when the people hear prophets that hold up mirrors to their faces to show them their broken ways, they run away to jump rope or dance. They avoid the pain or they discredit and invalidate the prophets with insults and slander, to hold on to the status quo.
The movement for basic human rights, for civil rights for Blacks in America, has been going on for hundreds of years. And in every century there are examples of the pushback that happened when white people were faced with the uncomfortable truth of the full humanity of Black people. . . .
During this moment in time, during this movement, the prophets of the day are calling us to all recognize that in America, Black lives are still not equal. Those uncomfortable with this truth call the Black Lives Matter Movement a terrorist organization or organized crime or a mob or rioters or whatever other words will stir up fear. Those desperate to hold on to the status quo close their eyes tightly and say they cannot see any racism in the world today because we conquered it 50 years ago. Those who want to discredit and invalidate the movement say, “All Lives Matter.” Those who want to dehumanize us pull out the N word and hold on tightly to the symbols that they think affirm their misguided belief in white supremacy.
Sadly, words spoken by Jesus over 2,000 years ago continue to hold true today. We have been studying these words for centuries. We claim these words have changed our hearts and our minds, but still when prophets come to speak truths that make us uncomfortable, we continue to undermine their work, we discredit their integrity, and ultimately we kill those who get closest to changing the status quo.
Yet, I do have hope standing here today. Because while there are many who are pushing back against this moment in time, while there are many who want to deny systemic racism, while there are those who are hoping for a race war, there are more who want real change to come. There are more people who want America, for the first time, to actually live into the ideals on which this country was founded: that all people are created equal. There are more people, of all stripes, who are saying the status quo has to go, because it is killing Black people and it is killing the soul of our nation.
So I do stand here with hope because of Generation Z. . . . This is a generation willing to see the sin, see the pain of the history of slavery and racism in this country, and not be whiny children but rather strong advocates for change. I stand here with hope today because of Generation Z, who are demanding change, who know their voices matter, who are clearly articulating a vision for a United States that owns its history, openly and honestly, because only the truth will set us free. I stand here with hope because of Generation Z, because you will and you are building a coalition of all generations to help our nation grow up, to mature, to let go of fear and see the beauty of the diversity of the people gathered on this land. I stand here with hope because of Generation Z, who are moving this country toward the day when the words “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” truly apply to us all.