Lamenting the Atlanta shootings
In this ongoing series we reflect on the spiritual truths and principles that undergird the fight for racial justice, the Spirit that animates the fight and the spiritual practices that will sustain us in this very human struggle. No one post will be the full word or the last word, but taken together, diverse voices will seek to illuminate a spiritual path forward. At the end of the post, as always, we feature “one of our own” and the righteous actions they are taking in their own setting.
An AAPI Lament
by Elizabeth Kim (TC15)
Late on the night of March 16, my boss texted asking if I’d seen the news about the shootings in Atlanta. I started reading, my distress deepening as the media updated from four victims to eight, from unknown people to seven women—six of whom were Asian, including four Koreans. These victims look like me, I thought as I sat alone in my kitchen.
Over the last week dozens of news outlets, podcasters, and friends reached out to Restore NYC, the Christian anti-trafficking nonprofit where I work, with a pressing question: were the shooting victims at the Atlanta spas being trafficked? While there is still not enough information to determine if they were, the question left me wondering how the answer would change anything about the victims’ humanity. Does the violence, racism, and misogyny they regularly experienced become excusable if they were there willingly instead of by force?
Too often only those in power receive the benefit of complexity. Law enforcement and the media search high and low to better understand the shooter. Was he racist? Was he an addict? Was he religious? What kind of day was he having before committing violent murder? In the swirl of speculation lie the victims. Nameless. Faceless. Without families, communities, or motivations.
As the solidarity hashtags stop trending and the news reports move on to a new mass shooting, I know that I need to process the events in Atlanta as an Asian-American woman, not just as a Restore NYC employee. So I ask myself the question that, as I’ve learned from my two years in Transforming Community, always has an answer: What is the invitation God is extending? This time, as many others, the invitation is to lament.
An Invitation with Provision
And because the Lord always pairs the invitation with provision, in my moment of personal grief a former colleague emails me saying, “I wrote a thing”:
We lament the shooting deaths on March 16.
We cry out from Atlanta to Asia, from the parlor to the province.
The temptation to flee is fierce, but we pause as a protest, and hold fast in this moment of incredible pain.
Grasping for breath through a river of tears.
Searching for words through a clouded mind.
Bearing the weight of many faces crowding our hearts.
Longing for home. Longing for a home.
Yet we choose the discomfort of slowing down, to name, to touch, and to comb the depths of our sadness, anger, and fear.
Anguish for the violent theft of innocent Asian lives.
Anger towards everyone and everything all at once.
Fear of being targeted.
Fearing men armed with ignorance and a gun.
Because of the size of our eyes, the color of our skin, and the shape of our bodies.
Are we not human? Do you not see us? What else must we suffer? How long must we endure?
My former colleague ends the lament, “May this tragedy never be forgotten. And may our moment to mourn not be missed.”
To my AAPI sisters and brothers, this is our moment in more ways than one. In the reckoning, rage, and reeling, may we remember to lament, even as we march toward that day when God will make all things new.
Elizabeth Kim (TC15) is the chief operating officer of Restore NYC, an anti-trafficking organization in Manhattan specializing in housing and economic-empowerment solutions for survivors of trafficking in the United States.
ONE OF OUR OWN
In each post in this series we will highlight Transforming Community Alumni and the righteous actions they are taking on the journey towards racial justice.
In this post we are pleased to feature Restore NYC, a nonprofit organization making freedom real for survivors of trafficking in the United States.
Transforming Center’s board chair, Jimmy Lee (TC11), was founding board chair and then executive director at Restore NYC for seven years. Amanda Eckhardt (TC14) serves as the current executive director, along with Elizabeth Kim (TC15) their chief operating officer, and Beck Sullivan (TC17) their senior director of programs. Their entire board has been shaped by attending the Pursuing God’s Will Together Summit for Leaders as they have incorporated the practice of corporate leadership discernment into their life together for the sake of others.
Restore NYC’s vision is a world free from trafficking — for every survivor, a life of hope, restoration, and flourishing. Watch the video below to hear from a survivor graduate of Restore’s services.
On April 8th at 7:30pm ET, Restore NYC will host a panel with Diane Langberg and Boz Tchividjian among others on the topic of Abuse of Power: How the Church Can Respond. Further information and register for free here.
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