“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Race, racism, and faith

We have begun our racial justice journey as a church. 

This journey has begun with learning, listening, and engaging with one another this past year. We’re watched and discussed, “Race the Power of an Illusion,” “Mirrors of Privilege,” and “Cracking the Code: Making Whiteness Visible.” We’ve held a number of small group listening sessions, and we’ve preached on the spiritual imperative of racial justice work, as well. It is a reclamation project of sorts, a way to reclaim our full humanity, and the humanity of others, and a way to commit to be partners in dismantling the devastating impact of racism. 

I’ve just finished reading Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Sons, which is about the “Great Migration,” the untold story of the millions of African Americans who left the Jim Crow South for opportunities and better lives in the North and West. 

As human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson says in a TED Talk: “I tell my students about slavery. I tell them about terrorism, that era that began at the end of reconstruction that went on to World War II. For African Americans in this country, that was an era defined by terror. In many communities, people had to worry about being lynched, about being bombed. It was the threat of terror that shaped their lives. And these older people come up to me now and say, “Mr. Stevenson, you give talks, you make speeches, you tell people to stop saying we’re dealing with terrorism for the first time in our nation’s history after 9/11.” They tell me to say, “No, tell them we grew up with that.” And that era of terrorism, of course, was followed by segregation and decades of racial subordination and apartheid.”

Stevenson goes on, "And yet, we have in this country a dynamic where we don't really like to talk about our problems. We don't like to talk about our history." 

As William Faulkner has said, “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” And so part of our racial justice journey as a faith community is to understand the past, and how it impacts and is alive in the present, in different ways and forms.

Beginning this fall, we'll move into this spiritual work in earnest, working closely with Dr. Heather Hackman, a local educator and racial justice trainer, who will help us develop the internal capacity to train and educate ourselves as people of faith working for racial equity.