In my own struggles with weight, I am now “other” because I no longer fit either clothes in my closet or the societal ideal of beauty. I am judged, stereotyped, discounted.When I struggle with a task, I am sometimes met with judgment rather than receiving the tender mercy of help. It happens. Now that I am “other” I am becoming more bold in supporting those who are marginalized or vulnerable for various reasons.
Ahmaud Arbery jogged through a neighborhood, George Floyd wanted to breathe; the Rev. Clementa PInckney, Cynthia Hurd, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, the Rev. Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson were praying and studying God’s Word at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C.; Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, and Irving Younger were at worship at the Tree of Life synagogue. They were alive, and then they weren’t. Because someone decided they didn’t deserve to live.
For Mr. Arbery and Mr. Floyd, police officers judged them as worthy of death, believing that their use of force was justified, even though the men in question were unarmed and defenseless.The nine killed at Mother Emanuel AME church and the eleven killed at Tree of Life synagogue were judged as undeserving of life because they were “other. The killers lacked the imagination to see another alternative to the murders: they could not conceive of treating their victims as children of God, who deserved mercy and compassion, and life. And their killers all felt justified in their behavior.
Christian Cooper was bird watching in Central Park, and when he asked Amy Cooper (no relation) to leash her dog, she called the police to make a false report that he attacked her. She was convinced she could get away with it because he is Black, and she is white. She didn’t treat him as a child of God, who deserves respect and kindness, and freedom from an unleashed dog. By God’s grace, the officers who responded to her call recognized that it was a false report so there was no tragic end to this story. Amy Cooper felt justified in her behavior.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is a biracial member of the British Royal Family. When she was pregnant with their first child, comments in the Daily Mail Online suggested someone should stab her in the abdomen, or push her down stairs – to rid the Royal Family of this mixed blood child and undeserving Duchess. Reporters printed non-verified and even false stories, about her and Prince Harry. Threads on Twitter are dedicated to receipts of how media coverage of Meghan doing something, whether it’s wearing an off-the-shoulder evening dress or eating avocados, differs from when Catherine, the Duchess of Middleton, did the same thing. Piers Morgan has been a constant, harassing, contemptuous and contemptible bully as host of “Good Morning Britain” with no consequences.
Those who vilify her feel justified. They view her through the emotional filter of “other”. They do not consider her as a child of God who deserves to be treated that way. And without any public statements of support, she was isolated and more vulnerable to bullying. Instead of giving her the benefit of the doubt, which is mercy in its working clothes, the judgmental attacks continue.
I have not heard any statements of remorse from any of those in the any of the above attacks. In the case of the British media’s coverage of Meghan, there is no self-reflection on the role they may have played in the Sussexes decision to step back from royal duties. They take no responsibility. They are happy to assign blame. And in what my friend Donna Havrisko calls “the song of racism”, many join in a chorale sung to blame the victim with every verse blaming the victim: they shouldn’t have been in that place, they shouldn’t have done that thing, they shouldn’t have said that thing. That song can be heard in the treatment of Meghan, of Mr. Arbery, and Mr. Floyd.
When someone can’t breathe, when someone is struggling, when someone is new to the family, the kind thing to do which brings healing is to show mercy, to give him or her some slack, to treat everyone as a child of God who deserves to be treated mercifully.
I continue to hope that my efforts at healthy eating and moving more will result in a happier body and better fitting clothes. People may well treat me differently should I look different in the future. I doubt I will forget the look of disappointment in some people’s eyes when I first meet them whether on Zoom or in person. I pray I will have the mercy to never look at anyone that way . And instead recognize that everyone is a child of God, and so look at each person that way.
Today’s Prayer Poem is an excerpt from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare:
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.