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Black History Month Voices: Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton | Commentary

During February, Maryland residents are commemorating Black History Month by studying and celebrating the past. Meanwhile, what’s being called the racial reckoning of 2020 is barely in the rearview mirror. Those recent events — Black people killed by police and marches demanding systemic change — are prompting some Baltimore-area residents to explore what needs to be done to ensure there is substantial progress toward achieving racial justice and equity.

The Baltimore Sun asked residents: What will it take to move the region ahead in 2021 and beyond? Specifically what do they want to change, and how will they help make those changes happen? Each week this month, we will share some of their comments about how they hope to move forward after a tumultuous 2020.

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The essays have been edited for clarity and length.

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland says in a Black History Month essay: If you steal something from somebody, you pay it back. You cannot hope to achieve reconciliation until you attempt to make that right.
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland says in a Black History Month essay: If you steal something from somebody, you pay it back. You cannot hope to achieve reconciliation until you attempt to make that right. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, 67, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

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We say we are a community of love. That’s how we define ourselves as a diocese. Justice is love extended on a social scale.

We researched in our parishes, in our diocese, how the diocese enriched itself materially and financially from the evil institution of slavery and the next, at least, 110 years or so.

Here’s what we learned in Sunday school a long time ago: If you steal something from somebody, you pay it back. You cannot hope to achieve reconciliation until you attempt to make that right.

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has established a $1 million reparations seed fund. That word, “reparations” — I know it’s a lightning-rod term. This is repairing; that’s what reparations means. We’re repairing the damage of previous generations. It’s not about guilt. It’s about collective responsibility. It follows from ratcheting down finger-pointing, hatred, anger and ratcheting up love, unity and commonality.

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— Compiled by Alison Knezevich

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