A Bishop’s Powerful Witness

Hope and Challenge

This is an excerpt from a talk given by my friend and colleague The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis. It is reprinted here with permission. The full article is found here.

I’m not an expert on dismantling systemic racism and anti-blackness. I’m not an expert on unlearning the messages that are continually and consistently telegraphed reminding me that my dark skin is not as valued as white skin. But I am expert on my life and my story, and I want to share a bit of it with you and then name the hope and challenges before us.

The part of my story that is fairly public knowledge is that I was born and raised in New York City—the granddaughter of Shinnecock Indians on one side and sharecropping descendants of slaves on the other. The first ten years we lived in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn—and I attended a diverse elementary school with black, white and Latina teachers and black, white, Puerto Rican and Jewish classmates. We had next to no money but a lively neighborhood where the owners of the mom and pop stores knew the name of every kid.

When I was ten, we moved to Staten Island, and I’ve never gotten over it. We were now living in a segregated space. White kids took the yellow school buses to our junior high school, and black and brown kids mostly took the city bus or walked the seven blocks to school. Many days, as I walked home alone, there were older white kids and adults who would spit at me and call me the n-word. Each Friday there would be reports of the “race riots’” at one of the local high schools—meaning, blacks and whites fighting after school, every week. I figured out by seventh grade that testing out and getting to a specialized school in Manhattan would be a better choice because I didn’t want to deal with that kind of racism. So I commuted an hour and half each way taking a bus, ferry and subway train to midtown Manhattan for high school where the diverse world opened back up for me.

For whatever reason, talking about race, building bridges, having friendship groups that looked the like Benetton ads of the 1980s has been my lot for over 40 years. And I’m tired because I’ve spent my life pushing away and unlearning the messages that whites and black can’t be real family and friends, but too many white folks won’t do the work of unlearning those same messages. I’m tired of the burden white supremacy places on me and the black and brown people I love. I’m tired of black folks bearing the symptoms of white sickness. This exhaustion is not two weeks old or global pandemic old. Black and brown people spend our lives learning to live with the exhaustion of white supremacy as a survival mechanism.

Click here to read the rest of the article.


  1. Absolutely I totally agree with this Bishop! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🥰🥰. However, I’m highly disappointed about the statements made by the Bishop of Washington DC! I pray none of our financial support go to her Dioceses! Previously she has made statements that greatly disturbed me!😭😰


    1. Very proud of our bishops, including Bishop Budde who speaks thectruth, and the House of Bishops oin Scotland who sent letter about events in front of St Johns. As my ethics professor, The Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon would say: to know is to be responsible.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! Reading such personal stories of the terrible and far-reaching effects of racism can open our eyes and empower us to be agents of change. In college I read “Black Like Me” by John Griffin; even though I grew up in the racist Mississippi Delta, I was surprised and shocked by the mistreatment of Blacks. Later reading “Having Our Say” by the Delany sisters (daughters of a Black Episcopal priest) was equally shocking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m still listening and hearing with sorrow about the deep and painful cost of racism. Yesterday I heard several moving testimonies from young persons of color. I am committed to hearing more and making these testimonies available to others. Thanks for reading, Rowena!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I’ve noticed many people of colour say they want us to listen and learn, so I’m doing that. Encouraging for me to stop by and see you are too. Even though I’m from NZ it still weighs heavily, the injustice. May I suggest you look at this – I’d read the tweets on Twitter and then found this compilation (an ‘everyday’ story about girl scouts and mums but with an unexpected twist). Eye-opening. https://trylivingwhile.black/#stories-twitter-girl-scouts

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Soni! I’m taking July off (sort of). Things change so rapidly and unexpectedly that I’m taking a wait and see approach. I will definitely be offering video chats and, in September, a virtual retreat. Please stay tuned


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