This morning’s news was, of course, full of reports about the pandemic. Especially shocking this morning was the headline that there are more cases of infected people in New York State than in any country in the world. A more concerning story that I read, however, spoke of the growing suspicion of white Americans toward our black and brown brothers. (There was no mention of women in the articles I read.) The issue is the wearing of masks. We have been instructed by the government (CDC) to wear gloves and masks – any face-covering will have to do in places where there is no availability of surgical or industrial masks.
It seems that innocent people are being followed by police or employees in grocery stores or even asked to leave because they are wearing masks and are thereby suspect. A 53-year-old marketing consultant in Nashville recounted his need to carefully consider his visit to a Kroger grocery store, his first outing since the inception of the CDC guidelines advising Americans to cover their faces to slow the spread of the virus. He said, “Appearances matter so I have pink, lime green and Carolina blue face coverings so I don’t look menacing.” His is only one of many such stories in the news today.
As I read chapter 18 of John’s gospel, the section for today’s liturgy that tells of Jesus before the high priest, I thought of those stories from today. Answering the questions of Caiaphas about his disciples and his doctrine, Jesus said, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue and in secret I have said nothing…”
I have no words to say what this feels like to me, a white woman in a safe environment with enough to eat and many people concerned for my well-being. I can only redouble my efforts at acceptance and love for all people, praying that the fear that spawns such distrust will dissipate more quickly than the virus so that we all may experience the reality of “innocent until proven guilty” and trust will be the mark of our relationships toward all those who should be accorded the title of “neighbor.”