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  • Josie Diebold

Commitment to Collective Liberation

In Heather McGhee’s book, The Sum of Us, she tells the story of the drained public pool. In the 1920s and 1930s, there were massive public swimming pools built throughout the country. They were a tremendous public benefit, but limited to just a portion of the public – the white portion. When faced with orders to desegregate, many municipalities opted to close the pool instead (in one case, going so far as to fill the pool in with cement). McGhee highlights this as a zero-sum game – the idea that if someone else gains something, that means I lose.

This zero-sum is everywhere. It can be seen as we turn on the news, scroll social media, listen to politicians and decision makers, or peek behind the veil of institutions. But the zero-sum is a lie.  The zero-sum is the fast track to collective demise and destruction – not liberation.


As a white antiracist community organizer, I am part of a community committed to collective liberation. Grounding that commitment is the recognition that racism is harmful for me, as a white person, though in very different ways than for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. In the case of the public pool closures, the decision prevented a public good from being accessed by the Black community. It also ended the white community’s access. In a racist system, I am less human, I am less whole, I worry I will not be able to support myself into old age, I wonder what world I will even have to live in if I make it to old age. To get free from all this necessitates the freedom of those most directly impacted by forces of violence, oppression, and exploitation.  


Indeed, Black, brown, and queer folks have always been speaking to the power of collective liberation. In 1977, the Combahee River Collective statement, authored by incredible Black queer women, stated: “…if Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” Collective liberation – not a zero-sum.


Jesus is about our liberation and freedom, and of course, that’s not the liberation and freedom of just some. Each Lenten and Easter season, we remember Jesus’ love, suffering, and resurrection toward our forgiveness and fullness of life – toward collective liberation.


In today’s readings, we hear of Jesus’ followers continuing his work. This points to a vital truth. The path of liberation is ongoing – and we are part of that enduring story. We have a role in cultivating the freedom and liberation of all people – and we do so in the face of narratives and forces that emphasize the zero-sum. That’s why, this Easter season, I hope for us all to embody a commitment to collective liberation and the work that commitment demands of us.


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