Today is Holy Innocents Day on the liturgical calendar. It’s the day I consider most on the calendar. Especially this year.
If you haven’t heard, Erica Garner is lying near death at a New York City hospital. Four months after giving birth. You remember Erica, don’t you? The daughter of Eric Garner; the man whose death at the hands of the NYPD was captured on video. The man who gasped “I can’t breathe.” Erica is 27 and had a heart attack (brought on by an asthma attack).
There has been a raft of articles/stories/studies that have come out in the last few months focusing on the Black mother and infant mortality rate. The numbers are heart-rending…Black babies are three times more likely not to make it to their first birthday. Black mothers are three times more likely to die in the first days after giving birth. Black babies are more likely to be born premature and, regardless of length of gestation, weigh less at time of birth. Black women with college education have worse birth outcomes than white women with high school or less education; so socioeconomic status does not enhance health outcomes. This does not even get into the issues of infertility and crisis in pregnancy.
Racism kills. From the womb to the tomb.
On the day after Christmas the following appeared in an op-ed,
“A recent study asked pregnant women what was their biggest fear during pregnancy….. Caucasian women said gaining weight and having a healthy child. Do you know how African-American women responded? Fear of bringing their child into this world. Fear that their son may be killed because of the color of his skin. When I shared this with obstetricians, they were shocked. How many are screening for that type of chronic stress during the visit? What are the effects of that type of chronic stress during the entire pregnancy?”
Sit with that for a while.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, it’s Holy Innocents Day. While the biblical story is about the slaughter (by the State) of all Jewish male babies under the age of 2, I’ve always thought that it was about more than just the babies.
As we are learning, generational trauma affects all aspects of life (and DNA, as research is showing). What if we understood Erica and her baby as part of those Holy Innocents whom Herod called to be slaughtered? How would it looked if the church started paying attention to those who are left behind after the slaughter? (this, of course, assumes that the slaughter ends) What would it be like if the church understood that one of its missions was to work with the communities most affected by trauma (along with calling out what Herod is doing)?
If I ever get to preach on Holy Innocents Day, these are the questions are what I would be asking. And calling for the church to remember Erica and her baby are some of those Holy Innocents.