By David Vincent Goodwin
Last week Thursday, the Albert “Pete” Pero Multicultural Center and a class from McCormick Theological Seminary created a space for mourning the election result and processing openly all of the feelings that have come with it. Preceded by a light dinner, the event felt authentic and collaborative. People expressed how they’d been feeling leading up to the moment, as well as the days since.
It is still difficult for many to imagine the rapid approach of such a devastating reality. The morning after the announcement of Donald Trump’s taking the electoral majority, McCormick Seminary’s President Frank Yamada sent a community-wide email mostly responding to the troubling news. In it he expressed his concern for such a victory for white supremacy and assured the community of solidarity with the causes of the oppressed, especially in such a time.
While many were devastated, the election also better illuminated the larger character of this country. It brought into clarity what kind of systems could give the helm to such a person. In achieving total power, these systems have outed themselves. The eyes of a larger public have been opened, and are opening still.
Look then, McCormick, to the Water Protectors who are continuously struggling to protect themselves and the Missouri River against the power of banks and industry. The fact that various police departments are siding with DAPL and causing on its behalf great harm to the bodies of human beings, many of them Indigenous bodies, historically disenfranchised by white supremacy for the profits of white politicians and white landowners, should raise certain questions–for those not already asking them–about police brutality in cities across the U.S.
In light of such a human rights crisis it seems, at least to me, less strange that we would end up with such a horror taking power. I only ask then, “What next?” What next for the institution of McCormick? What next for its faculty and students?
More urgently, we must ask, “What now?” and not fall into the pattern of many institutions, forfeiting action for the sake of image. We must remember the words of King when he said:
“…I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’… Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (King 1963, 3.)
I wonder if the McCormick institution has not played the role of the moderate in recent years and I question what steps it will take over the next four in response to our country’s new leadership. While it remains undecided on housing for its own students, will MTS even consider supplying sanctuary to immigrants? Will it take a public stance on Standing Rock against those who seek to harm the innocent? If not, how can it take a public stance on Trump’s actions? Will it be a shelter for our Muslim siblings? Has it been yet? Will it be a center for planning strategy and organizing movements? Will it be a house of justice? It has not seemed like one.
Whether or not the institution of McCormick can lead an effective movement against oppressive systems is yet to be seen. In the meantime, many of its students are taking initiative. On Friday, half a dozen MTS students attended a Seminarians for Justice meeting at the Chicago Temple, attended by over thirty seminarians from five different Chicago schools and multiple faith traditions to discuss next steps and strategy. The first and most major action related to Standing Rock, a metaphor for Neoliberal despotic control of resources and power across our country. But others are in the works, poised to counter whatever steps Trump’s administration takes to steal, kill, and destroy human lives.
If you have information that you would like to share with the student body regarding movements and organizations, please send them into the CURE, or share them with us on Facebook and Twitter, so we can feature them and get the word out.