Many Voices One Mission: Redefining Social Matter in America

by TJ Harper


4/17/2019

As a small particle of potassium metal is dropped into a test tube of water. Under the right pressure and temperature, the metal can become a solid and a liquid at the same time, scientists have confirmed. PHOTOGRAPH BY TURTLE ROCK SCIENTIFIC/SCIENCE SOURCE
 
 
When reading an article in National Geographic, I was amazed because a new phase of matter was discovered: “an unusual state of potassium” that is “solid and liquid at the same time.”  For years, in elementary school science classes, I learned that there were essentially three types of matter: solid, liquid, and gas (and later in college plasma also became part of the equation).  However, I had never heard of an intersection of any of the states of matter until now. For many years, I had a rather limited view on what it meant to be matter.
 
Moving beyond the science aspects of matter, what does it mean to matter in America? Why, in some contexts, is it taboo to say, “Black Lives Matter” or “Love Thy Muslim Neighbor”?  Is our societal view so myopic that people who do not conform to, or align with, social constructs cannot matter? What is the responsibility of people of faith to help redefine social matter in America?   These are questions that I wrestle with on a daily basis; questions that cannot remain unanswered.
 
Recently in Louisiana, three historically black churches were bombed within 10 days.  Let me repeat that: Three historically black churches were bombed within 10 days. My brother, who attends college in Louisiana, was just miles away from these incidents; thank God that he is OK.  Thank God that no one was hurt or killed in these incidents. But, I don’t want to hear, “We are in a post-racial society” because we have never been, nor do I want to hear, “That was just an isolated event.”  Black and brown people in America experience acts of racism and terrorism daily. Overtly and covertly.
 
So often, people fail to realize the interconnectedness of our struggle, because individual liberties are mistaken as the liberation of all people.  I am challenging every person reading this article to be involved in the fight for racial justice and racial equity; it’s not too late because there are people still hurting.  In times that are uneasy, uncomfortable, and unsatisfying, remember that people of color encounter those same moments and there is no On/Off switch for them. Lean into your discomfort.  Just like potassium being solid and liquid at the same time, being in two states, so can you: be afraid and brave; be uncomfortable and present; be uneasy and filled with resolve.
 
I invite you to help redefine social matter in America.  Just because whiteness has been the status quo for centuries does not mean it ought to remain that way. And the work will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight.  So, I leave you with words from the Apostle Paul: “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.” (Galatians 6:9, New Living Translation)

TJ Harper is the Racial Justice Associate for the MA and CT Conferences, UCC.
 
 
Many Voices
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
 

 

TJ Harper



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