A word of courage

Dave Harvey

A week ago I was made aware of the chronic harassment of a young woman in our high school by a small group of her classmates. The harassment was in the form of ongoing taunts that I would describe as profane, vulgar, racist and sexist. The classmate’s torment has gone on for two years and was reported to the school administration and followed up on by the administration with the parents with poor results.

I know this young woman. I am moved by what I know of her life story and impressed by the kind of persons her parents are and that she is becoming. I find it nearly impossible, except for the testimony of thoroughly reliable witnesses, to believe that anyone would find personal satisfaction in verbally assaulting someone as affable and accomplished as she is with such hatred and disdain. But they did just that and they did it publicly so other students could hear it.

The student has left our school, the family house is up for sale and plans have been made to leave the county.

I will spare you the ranting rage alternating with frustrated depression that I have been in and out of for the last week since I heard about this.

I will instead focus on a bright note of hope. When I asked the young woman’s father if any of her classmates stood up for her in the face of her attacker, he did not hesitate to name one classmate who stood and said, “You can’t say that to her. You can’t say that to anybody.”

No rants. No threats; just courage and a word of truth. I will also say that I know who you are and I am very proud of you. Good work!

This young woman came from a home that taught her that we need to stand up for each other. No rants. No threats; just courage and a word of truth. It is foolish to think that this is the safe thing to do. Such courage can be costly. Apparently our schools are unable to protect victims or those who would be their advocates. But this young woman had learned that personal safety is not always the only or the best life goal; sometimes even kids have to stand up for their friends or something inside them… their spirit, their soul, their dignity… will be diminished and die. As their parents, pastors, teachers and mentors we need show them how that looks in our own actions.

Moses revealed God’s word when he wrote, “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil… You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.” (Exodus 23:2,6)

Whether it is in the school, at church, at the bar or on social media, all of us need to exercise the quiet, steady courage to say to each other, “You can’t say that to her. You can’t say that to anybody.” It will give us the personal moral traction we will need if we are to dismantle racism in our society and its institutions.

Each month a member of the Cook County Ministerium will offer Spiritual Reflections. This month’s contributor is Pastor Dave Harvey, who has served as pastor of Grand Marais Evangelical Free Church since February of 2008.

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