Where does racism hide within our community?
How does it manifest itself without us even noticing it?
One of the first places to look for racism is in the systems that underpin our society. Systemic racism is built on assumptions that were made by the generations that preceded us. We perpetuate the racism by holding on to systems that we’ve grown up with, systems that we’ve always known.
In this church, we use a white altar cloth. The message perpetuated by that symbol is that white is pure, divine, and heavenly.
We hold up a cross as the symbol of our faith. Contained within that symbol is our mind’s image of a white man who died to absolve us of our sins.
We celebrate Christmas with stories and pictures of Santa Claus, a jolly white man who leaves gifts for us if we are good.
How would those symbols be received if we changed them? Would you be uncomfortable if the altar cloth was black? If the man on the cross was Asian? If Santa Claus was portrayed by a woman of African heritage?
Would that make you uncomfortable?
Healing Racism in Church and in our Community.
For several months, our community has been engaged in a project to heal racism in our congregation and our community. As part of this initiative, we’ll be publishing a weekly feature to update you on our progress, challenge your perceptions, and invite you to go deeper into this work with us. Healing racism requires that we all take more time to listen and to be gentle with our own feelings. There is no room for judgements in this critical work. Many hidden elements of racism have been present in our culture for so long that we don’t even recognize them as racist. To heal racism, we all need to keep an open mind and engage each other with alternative ideas. Read the Sunday News every weekend to stay engaged with this important initiative.
Do we avoid real change by celebrating diversity?
It’s a fair question. The popular argument is that our diversity makes us inclusive because it embraces all forms of inequity and discrimination. The danger is that, in trying to be inclusive of all forms of inequity, none will be addressed effectively. This is particularly true of racism. The term “diversity” can mean so many things—where we went to school, food preferences, musical tastes. Scientists tell us that diversity is essential to the survival of all organisms. When we are challenged to examine racism in our church, do we dismiss the reality because we have so much diversity here? The richness of diversity in our community does not mean that we’re inoculated against racism. In fact, it may be one of the areas where we hide racism out of view. Think about it.