Day Three of our Anti-Racism training with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond ended with a service of Holy Eucharist and hopes that our time today was not spent winding up the work, but, really, winding up… for more work and change and hope and reconciliation in our diocese as we work to eliminate (or, “undo,” which seems to be the popular term,) racism.
It was quite a journey these three days. (I like that it was three days- like other spiritual journeys we have known… Jonah in the big fish, Jesus in the tomb…) I pray that our experience will lead to powerful transformations, as well.
As I wrote yesterday, we received a lot of education about the roots of racism in America that have to do with anthropology, colonialism, the doctrine of discovery and our need for domination- and the resultant racism that is the perfect storm of racial prejudice and the (misuse) of institutional and systemic power.
Today’s emphasis was on understanding internalized racial oppression, looking at Internalized Racial Inferiority (what’s it really like to be black in America?) and Internalized Racial Superiority. Thanks to some black folk that I know, and to The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas who split me wide open on the topic of racism last winter in a talk that she gave at Messiah College, I had an idea of the things that black and brown mothers and fathers say to their children as they are growing up at their knee. It was awe-ful to hear the black and brown people in our group have that conversation with us today. When we got to the conversation about white folk, we discussed everything from fear to deflection, denial, fragility and color-blindedness. One personal learning that I had today was coming to understand that white “color blindedness” (pretending there is no difference between us) really isn’t as helpful as we think it is. For the black or brown person who is being regarded by a color-blind white person, it “erases” an foundational part of their identity. I’ll not lie- this part of the training made me more uncomfortable than when we started- and on edge a little bit about how I am supposed to be and act with my black friends.
We talked about systems in an organization and the places where transformational change takes place. Guess what? It’s not at the level of personnel or programs or even among those whom our organization services… (those are places for less durable transactional change) but real, lasting and significant change takes place at the place of organizational structure and the formation of mission, vision and corporate identity. In the Diocese, that’s the Council of Trustees and Bishop, and our coalescing vision and identity. And so, if we want to work on undoing or eliminating racism in our diocese, it isn’t going to be with another program… it will come in naming us as an anti-racist diocese in our mission, vision and identity and working to live up to that.
Are we there yet?
Honestly, I think we have work to do. Not because we are all for racism- but because we need to be enlightened (woke!) to what’s going on in this country.
We see it on tv. We hear it from our friends of color. We read about one more unarmed black man in his twenties shot. And… we don’t know what to do.
Those who attended this weekend’s workshop (representatives of diocesan bodies, staff and others) will meet again in a few weeks to unpack this work. The Eliminating Racism Task Force that gathered us for this training will meet before then to look at a way forward. One of our trainers recommended a 20-year strategic plan. It will take that long.
I’m glad for the time that we had, and look forward to widening the circle for others to participate. Please email me if you want “in” on the organizing.