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  • Kimberly Erickson

SHOULDERS

Updated: Jun 10

I carry upon my shoulders the burden of being a female who at fifteen was forcefully grabbed by a man at my workplace. He pressed his lips into my neck before I could free myself and run. At twenty-two, I was mugged and dragged down cement steps by another man who had been hiding in the bushes outside my apartment. I could go on, but my purpose is not to invite sympathy for myself. Because, were I a woman of color, the oppression I have faced as a female would only be compounded by one more heavy detail: the color of my skin.

Whether born upon these lands only to have sacred grounds stolen by those with white skin; whether kidnapped, tortured, chained and forced to live upon these lands by whites, or whether risking one's life to escape to this country in search of freedom from oppression and a safe place for one's children to live among these whites, we who have only known privilege are accountable to all these people, of all skin colors, who have experienced oppression at the hands of our ancestors, and the oppression we continue to impose. We must be compelled as humans to move forward, shouldering the pain of our brothers and sisters, so that past pain and humiliation might be resurrected into a nation of true freedom, respect and love.


The gospels speak of a man from Cyrene (now Libya) named Simon, who was simply walking in from the country when he was grabbed by soldiers and forced to carry the cross which would crucify Jesus. (Mark 15:21; Matthew 27:32; Luke 23:26) Simon helped to shoulder the physical burden and humiliation of a man wrongfully accused, tortured and murdered.


Paul wrote to the Galatians that loving your neighbor is to fulfill the law of Christ [5.14] This "law" isn't an immigration law or any civil law that can be enforced by the police. The law of Christ is a law of the heart, which is only fulfilled through the brokenness which Jesus demonstrates. When our hearts are broken and crucified, we know no other "law" than the law of love.


Paul goes on to tell the Galatians that we know we are living this new type of law when we are compelled to shoulder one another's burdens. [6.2] This law of Christ is the love of God, the love of the Universe.


The videos which show George Floyd's torturous death at the hands of a white man, whose job was to uphold civil law and protect all citizens, was heartbreaking to watch, as a woman, and as a human being. But these videos may be the beginning of momentous change. Like those who witnessed the death of Jesus, we witnessed and mourn the death of George Floyd that was wrong, it should not have happened. But because of those videos, George Floyd did not die alone and unseen like so many. Like Jesus, he may have wrongfully died, but his death may bring the resurrection of a different kind of nation and a different sort of "law." We need a law of the heart; a law of love.

My shoulders as a woman are strong, but I don't have to fear that one of my sons might be handcuffed, shot or have his last breath denied him, because of the color of his skin.

George Floyd had a heart condition. My hope is that as white citizens basking in freedoms we take for granted, that we will shoulder the burden of George Floyd's family and all persons of color to acquire "heart conditions" in the form of broken hearts and crucified spirits which are raised in love for our neighbors of every skin color and every nationality.


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