Anti-Racism for Advent
This Advent, my husband and I are participating in Anti-Racism and Racial Reconciliation training. If this seems an odd choice, remember that my turn towards anti-racism began with the Memphis School of Servant Leadership, a religious organization. This training is offered by the Episcopal Church in Mississippi. We meet once a week for four weeks. I’m going to blog after each session. I won’t talk about what others in the group say. Even unattributed, that seems a violation of confidence. What I will talk about is what I’m learning. After all, my stated hope going into the training was to learn. So here’s what I, a white woman raised in Mississippi, am learning so far.
You have to be active.
This may not apply to everyone, but for a white Southerner, especially one of my age, it does. If I want to be part of a community that includes folks who aren’t like me, I have to intend it. If I don’t take the steps to make it happen, it won’t. How do I take those steps? I need to ask myself, what businesses do I use? Who do I hire to do my taxes or clean my teeth? Where do I eat? What programs do I support? (NB: support does not equal cash). Who do I bring into my circle? When hiring a speaker, where do I look? When asking for recommendations, who do I approach? Where do I go to church? If I keep making decisions to support, use, hire, and socialize with white organizations and people, I’m not going to be part of a group of folks not like me.
Related, 2nd Biggest Take-Away
My parents modeled this active creation of community for me. I kind of knew this, but the conversations in the break-out groups shone a big-ass spotlight on it. One example: every summer, when we rented our beach house at Ocean Isle Beach, my parents took the real estate agent who handled our rental to lunch. They became friends. Decades-long friends. My white parents and the African American agent could have remained pleasant business acquaintances, but my parents reached out, and she responded. Together, they chose to give a relationship the chance to form.
I Told You it was about God
Here’s what I’m learning: every interaction with a child of God is an opportunity to be in relationship with that person. Every interaction. Regardless of what we do for a living or our religion or where we’re from or what party we support or how much schooling we chose, or our views on racism in America, we have the chance to be in relationship. And, once I’m in relationship with more people who aren’t like me, I will more readily see that every person is a child of God.
- White guilt isn’t helpful. Not guilt about my mostly white life or my terrible ancestors or what white America has done to Black America. It does nothing to move the conversation forward. In fact, it creates this big lump-hole of feelings that sits there, sucking up all the energy that could be used to move forward. Feel the guilt, and move on. The Kingdom of God is near. What am I doing with my life today?
- Be as articulate as I can be. During the course of one conversation, after I told a story, I realized I hadn’t made it clear I wasn’t blaming the boy in the story. Even if I wind up sounding like a wonk, I have to explain myself. (This is hard to do because the more I say, the greater the chance I’ll say something wrong. I have to risk it anyway.)
- This week I’m enamored with relationships, but my goal is learning how I can better pursue what God wants me to do to make life around me less racist.
- Everyone else in the group is learning too. Who I met yesterday is not who I will greet next week. If I want them to let me grow and change, I have to give space for them to do the same.
peace in creativity, Ellen