Yoruba Richen has a unique worldview. As an African-American woman, she sees a distinct correlation between the civil rights movement and the modern day fight for LGBT rights. When people scoff at the notion or debunk the fact that these two are unwittingly similar she reacts with rage.
Similarly, an aged nun tells of her experience as the superior of the sisters of Loretto during the 1960s birth control fight: Nuns and priests alike had both broken the chain of command and disobeyed the hierarchy by signing a pledge that they supported the use of birth control and abortion and taken out a national ad. The sisters of Loretto, a local ministry located in Kentucky and St. Louis, known for their progressive views, were some of the many signers. When the Sister got the letter from the Catholic hierarchy saying that she either had to force her sisters to recant their statements or force them from the faith, her first reaction was rage.
That always seems to be the first instinct, blind rage at the perpetrators of injustice. We’ve all experienced that outrage at someone’s ignorance or bigotry. It is overpowering…but it hinders progress. When we surrender ourselves to blind rage without channeling our anger into the determination to solve a problem, we get nowhere. When blind rage settles it turns into apathy. So often we surrender ourselves to others ignorance and grow used to bigotry. In doing so we become our own greatest enemies. So many progressive movements and just voices have been silenced by the power of the majority’s apathy. Don’t let it fool you into thinking it is peace; it is surrendering yourself to the wrong in the world.
The women above knew this. They channeled their anger and worked with activism and bravery to make change. Yoruba Richen started filming what she herself had witnessed all these years and created The New Black a documentary being played on Independent Lens (and at the Missouri History Museum in May). The sister released a statement saying that she would not disown people who had chosen to be her family. She used activism to circumvent the powerful church hierarchy and in 2014 she told her story in front of her peers and one impressionable eighteen year old. They used their anger to create a ripple of change that with other peoples’ help can become waves.
Seeking peace starts with standing up for what is right and supporting those who are brave enough to make a ripple in the façade called “the way it has always been.” Being a progressive means being a leader and a participant in movements. It means being empathetic and practical, and it means being a part of the wave of change that challenge the status quo. Being a progressive requires action against the injustices in the world. That is where peace, beautiful and exhilarating, is achieved.