The final installment in a series investigating the histories of racism, white supremacy and enslavement in the people and lands of Christ Church Easton.
In one and a half years as priest-in-charge of Christ Church Easton, I have fallen in love with the lands and peoples of our town and church, alike. There is such profound capacity for beauty, love, and delight. At Christ Church, we are a tiny bunch that, though we struggle to stay afloat financially, really does seek “to be and build a community of love” and join with our broader community in this vision. I am truly blessed to be a priest here.
On our website, we claim that we’ve been “putting love first since 1762,” and I have no doubt that our predecessors in recent and long ago ages truly intended to do so, too, and also felt blessed, like I do, by their neighbors and lands. I take my place in a long line of Episcopal clergy, and our congregants take their place in a long line of faithful worshippers who have kept this tiny beloved community going though out the centuries. Yet, the beautiful lands and peoples that have comprised the town of Easton and Christ Church remain marred by the forces of racism reviewed in this historical study.
Today, though Easton School District spends $19,241 per pupil and Regional District 09 spends $24,759 per pupil, Bridgeport spends $14,419. Two-thirds of people of color live in just 15 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. According to the 2020 census, some have claimed Easton to be at its most racially diverse. Of its 7,500+ residents, 3.3% (or 250 +/- 226) identify as biracial or multi-racial, 2.7% (or approximately 202 individuals (+/-134)) identify as Hispanic, and 1.7% (or approximately 130 individuals (+/- 96)) identify as Asian. Only 2 (+/-4) individuals identify as singularly Black. Taken in consideration that Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx peoples comprised 17% of Easton’s population in 1910, yet they comprise 8% in 2020, room for considerable growth should still be observed (Connecticut State Department of Education 2019; “Easton” 2020; US Census 1910).
Scars of past racial injustice remain unhealed even as new ones are scored. Because we collectively do not know the history of racism in our midst, some have struggled to understand how racism is pertinent to our lives today. Others have been afraid that telling the truth will somehow obscure all the goodness of these lands and peoples. Resultingly, division, fear, misunderstanding, and at times uncharitable aspersions have plagued us, whether during conversations about multicultural education under the leadership of Superintendent Rydell Harrison or our town council’s efforts to dedicate our town and our resources to ending racism by proclaiming it a public health issue. And in our present debates on the question of zoning, much more reckoning needs to be made of its implications for racial (in) justice, alongside our commitments to the protection of our natural resources.
Locally, statewide, and nationwide, we are plagued by the continuance of racial inequality in housing, education, criminal processing, policing, wealth, and employment, among other institutions and systems. In our hearts, churches, and homes, we are plagued by racial prejudice, both in unconscious and conscious form. We live divided, culturally and spiritually. Violence and hateful rhetoric abounds. The moral urgency of now–and of our future- begs that we tell the truth so that we might seek transformation within and around us, even while preserving what we love most about these lands, these peoples, and our congregations. All this, and deep belief that each and every one of us is created in God’s image, has motivated our telling of the stories, as we uncovered them, of the lands and peoples of Christ Church Easton. And our faith tells us, in so doing, we need not fear: the truth will set us free.
When Galileo promoted what the Polish priest Copernicus had posited a century before and Muslim astronomers a half-millennium before– that the earth circled around the Sun and not vice versa, the Church put him on trial and condemned him. It would take 200 years before the Church would acknowledge the truth of Galileo’s assertions and 359 years for the Church to fully repent. Yet, in the year 2022, 246 years after the Revolution and 405 years after Black Africans were brought to the British colonies of these lands to be enslaved, our refusal to tell the truth and address the consequences of enslavement, racism, and white supremacy may be exceptional and implores our response.
This nine-part investigation, The People and Lands of Christ Church Easton: An Investigation of Our Histories of Racism, White Supremacy and Enslavement has sought to deepen our understanding of the longstanding and complex reach of the sin of racism in order to encourage our repentance and pursuit of reparation. From a faith-based lens, repentance is the turning back from the individual and collective sins that separate us from our love of God and neighbor and the turning toward God’s ways of justice, peace, and love. Learning and telling the truth about our complicated histories, thereby increasing our awareness and reckoning, is one crucial step–and indeed, perhaps our starting place–but neither as individuals, a parish, nor as a community can it be our last. We at Christ Church will continue to seek to repent of our racism and seek reparation, and we look forward to partnering with our community to do so.
In our lands and among us peoples, may we all be moved in big ways and in small, in heart, body and soul, to turn towards racial justice.
Our historical investigation drew widely from over eighty secondary and primary sources (see here for a full bibliography).