The cover of The Lines Between Us by Lawrence Lanahan

by the Rev. Cristina Paglinauan

Sometimes the truth is easy and lovely, to recognize, speak and hear. Like when you happen to open your front door as the sun is descending on a clear, crisp autumn day, and the changing hues of the sky take your breath away; and you exclaim to whoever might hear you (or perhaps simply to yourself), “Oh my God, what a gorgeous sunset.”

Other times, speaking the truth and hearing it aren’t so easy.

Last night 85 of us gathered in the nave to listen to the second speaker in our VOICES series, journalist and author Lawrence Lanahan. As part of his presentation, he read aloud excerpts from his recently published book, The Lines Between Us: Two Families and A Quest to Cross Baltimore’s Racial Divide. I can’t imagine that the words he said were easy for him to speak.

They definitely were not easy to hear.

Baltimore’s wealth follows whiteness.

White supremacy is alive and well.

People with privilege and power have used these to perpetuate socioeconomic inequality and injustice.

Earlier in the day I happened to have visited two different schools in our city. The first one, located in the 21225 zip code, would have closed several years ago, had it not been for the determined engaged activism of its surrounding community; I had to leave the meeting I was attending there several times, due to a persistent cough that time-and-again took my breath away, caused by a faulty air-filtering system. The second one, located in the 21210 zip code, features a newly completed, multi-million dollar, successful renovation of several school spaces; walking down its hallways also took my breath away, but for a different reason. My heart is with and praying for both school communities, that one day, all students in our city may receive the same quality of education, regardless of zip code.

Lawrence Lanahan ended his talk last night with these words from W.E.B. DuBois:
I sit with Shakespeare, and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm and arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out of the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed Earth and the tracery of stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?

Sometimes the truth is painful to speak and to hear.

And yet, we must have the courage to do both … and then to act, with God’s grace.

The Rev. Cristina Paglinauan is the associate rector for community engagement at the Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore

This story was originally published in the E-Redeemer September 26, 2019 and is re-posted here with permission.