Following the long shadow of America’s original sin

Theologian Alison Benders takes an online pilgrimage through our country’s racial history.

My family and I recently drove several hours to a secluded mountain town in the Los Padres National Forest. When we arrived, we quickly realized that we didn’t have cell reception.

I couldn’t have been more delighted. Being fully present to the people I love and the rest I craved became the greatest gift of all, the deepest of invitations into the sacred moment of now. This sentiment is much the same—and perhaps even heightened—for theologian Alison Benders when she embarks on a self-described color-line pilgrimage to trace the sin of racism through pivotal moments in our country’s history.

During this journey, “time is paused but full of possibilities—a pregnant pause,” almost all of which takes place from the confines of Benders’s home in Berkeley, California. Although she originally planned for a civil rights tour of several southern states, the pandemic interrupted her plans, “just as it interrupted the whole world.” This turn of events, however, makes Benders’s personal journey wholly accessible to anyone who dares enter into her story, chapter by chapter, moment by moment.