White Work of Anti-Racism

I’m trying to stay engaged in anti-racist work, mostly in education myself, listening to and evaluating my thoughts, and having a slow and long conversation with people at Third Church. The last blog post on this subject was: Anti-Racism. Here are a few up-dates since then.

Presbyterian Outlook Webinar with Kerry Connelly author of “Good White Racist” called Holy Imagination and Race: How the Church Can Be a Healing Force in America’s Racial Divide.

It was in this webinar that Kerry Connelly named that the work of BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color) is to live a beautiful life. That living, resting, laughing, enjoying, etc. (of things I take for granted) can be an act of resistance in a world that is trying to oppress BIPOC. Some BIPOC may choose to be generous with their time and talent and spend it educating white people, but that is not their work. It is the work of white people to educate ourselves, to be mindful of ways in which racist thoughts slip into our minds, and to examine ways in which our privilege blinds us to the suffering of others. I tend to fall into apathy, and think that I am powerless to do anything in this current social justice work, but Kerry Connelly would say that isn’t true and that there is something each of us can do. Everyone has a voice, platform, audience, even if you don’t consider yourself a leader, people are watching your example. She gave great examples and told stories from her experiences. I am oversimplifying the message I heard and I recommend watching the webinar. If you are new to these ideas, she does define terms towards the end the webinar, so hang in until the end if there is something you didn’t understand.

 Center on Race and Social Problems  The Plan for Pitt: Promote Diversity and Inclusion (University of Pittsburgh) continues to be a source for my learning. This webinar is older, but I watched it recently. It is particularly interesting if you are thinking about police reform. Warriors vs. Guardians is a recording from June 10 for “Race, Police and Unarmed Civilian Deaths: What Can Be Done?”—a virtual conversation featuring David Harris, the Sally Ann Semenko Professor of Law at Pitt, and a national expert on the intersection of race and police shootings. His book, A Divided City speaks to similar issues. I didn’t read the book but, the webinar was informative, so I’m sharing it in case this is exactly what someone else might be thinking of diving into.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Third Church’s adult forum read Ibram Kendi’s “How to be Anti-Racists”. After finishing that book, I was ready to tackle a list of books on the topic so that we could continue to have these hard discussions. Our group was divided. Some were ready to dive in to more anti-racist work and others need a break. We talked about how our privilege is what allows us to take a break and that many people can not take a break from the racism they experience daily. The decision we reached was to take a break with a plan to restart the anti-racism work so that we were not tempted to give it up all together. One of our members suggested a video series, another had been looking at an advent devotional, so that is our plan for now until the end of the year. Then we will begin January with James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”.

I have to admit that since we’ve made that decision, I’ve not chosen another book on racism to read for myself. Preparing for adult forum was a lot of the reason I continued to steadily engage in the topic. And honestly, reading isn’t really what most people would call engaged in the work either. I’ve looked into a couple of organizations I could join, one is an interfaith group working on systemic issues. I’ve hesitated jumping in too far. I realized after the adult forum conversation that I’m a little ahead (not sure that’s exactly the right word) of my congregation on the issues that lead to racism and racist policies. Being a pastor is sometimes a balancing act between encouraging the congregation to be better and not pushing them to the point it is no longer a healthy relationship (which typically leads to the pastor loosing her job). So, maybe it’s ok if I take a little break too. This might give me some time to reevaluate how to continue the long and slow conversation around racism. I remain hopeful that someday we will be able to make the world a better place.

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