Uncomfortable Conversations: Let’s Talk About Racism Follow Up
Last month when we came together to discuss honestly and openly what racism looks and feels like with three brave women who shared their experiences and ideas. I was amazed by the response of our community. You listened, shared and asked insightful questions. Thank you. I followed up with our wonderful panelists and asked if they would be willing to write out the answers to some of the questions you asked that we either didn’t get to or didn’t get to spend too much time on. Graciously they agreed. Below are their answers. I am so thankful that they were once again willing to give of their time and share their insight and experience. Like the talk itself there is so much here to learn from! If you missed the talk itself you can listen here.
Do you think it is important to know and teach history to include more truth about our country’s racist past?
Kathy: YES, YES, YES! I have been purposefully reading and watching documentaries, as a result I have found there was soooooo much that was left out or “white washed” from our history books, lessons and classes! So many biases and systemic racism imbedded because of ignorance and lack of action to change.
Jess: I think that it’s VERY important to know and teach history to include more truth about our country’s racist past. We have not done so in the past and it has perpetuated racism in our country. Full stop. You cannot change and you will not change what you are not aware is a problem. As I read and learn about the entirety (or the unedited truth) of our country’s history, it grieves me to know how my lack of knowledge of our country’s racist past has played a large role in my blind assimilation to a grossly unjust system and how it has bred attitudes that I now recognize as implicit bias. I am thankful for this moment in time when the future generation is learning, along with my generation, the truth of our country’s past. They will be (and already are) better equipped to call out racist acts, systems and biases and act to bring positive change both in themselves and in this country. They won’t have this false sense that we as a country (or as people) are incapable of functioning under systemic injustice. They won’t be as tempted to dismiss stories or claims of injustice and they will be more inclined to listen with compassion, empathize, and lament with people who have been hurt by unjust acts/systems and most importantly will be moved to bring on real, sustainable change. The first step in bringing positive change is to learn and lament our history.
Lindsey: 1,000 percent!!! We HAVE to know the truth about our history so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes AND so that we can move towards true heeling, reconciliation and reparation.
As believers how do we confront racism while also showing love to others?
Kathy: Matthew 18:15-20 speaks to this. Dealing with Sin in the Church. We have a roadmap. I do try to understand why people feel the way they do, cultural, I am asking more questions to listen and not necessarily respond.
Jess: As believers, our best example is always Jesus. If you read the Gospels you clearly see that Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed, the marginalized, the poor or the outcast. Jesus confronted racism. Take, for example, the story of the Samaritan woman. Samaritans were outcasts and seen as less than by Jewish society at that time. Jesus, as a Jewish man, by societal standards was not to associate with a Samaritan woman, but He approached her at the well and changed her life forever. When Jesus befriended, healed, and saw (in every sense of the word) those that others looked down on, dismissed, or devalued, He was showing Love to them. He did not let the condemning voice of the Pharisees or the societal norms of the time stop Him. He showed the oppressed, the marginalized, and the outcast, Love and revealed their True value by His actions. As for the ones who judged and condemned Him for siding with the marginalized or oppressed, He did not berate, belittle, or shame them. He spoke the Truth with firmness but did not let them distract Him from His mission to love others.
Lindsey: I think living in truth IS living in love. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” Love loves the truth. It also says in Micah 6:8 that “the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” As Christians addressing racism with other Christians, we can simply reiterate that we HAVE to do what is right… we simply cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism or exclusion of any form and claim to defend the sacredness of every human life (Pope Francis). If you truly know Christ, you should be able to see and have compassion for the pain of all God’s children SO much that you act as if it were your pain. Then, you don’t need to ask the question above. Standing up for injustice is showing love and doing what’s right and good. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)
Can you speak about intersectionality? In general, but also what about how/if ableism connects with the work of racial justice.
Jess: Our experiences in the world are definitely shaped by our race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, physical appearance, religion, etc. There are biases and/or privileges that are given with each social identity and they have a compounding or intersectional effect on our individual experiences within society. Systemic injustice exists when one group of people is given privilege over other groups. There is a hierarchy of inherent value based on each category and each of those values given to us within this structure intersects with each of the other identities we hold. A middle-class white woman will have a different experience than a middle-class white man, and a poor woman of color will have a different experience from a poor white woman. At the core of the work of racial justice is the Biblical Truth of the Imago Dei. We are all created in the image of God and although we are all different, we all are equal in value and worth because God is in each of us, no matter our race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, or religion. If we truly believe in the work of racial justice we have to believe in the work of dismantling ableism and advocate for inclusion and equitable treatment of our brothers and sisters who live with disabilities. God’s call for justice extends to all people.
Lindsey: I think grasping intersectionality is one of the keys to understanding the injustices around us. It adds layers to our general ideas of people and their experiences and, in my opinion, can therefore lead to more empathy. I do think the work of ableism connects to racism because ableism has been used to manipulate our society throughout history into thinking that blacks are less capable or into believing that people who commit racist crimes do so because of a disability. Here are two articles I came across that might help explain:
Racism and Ableism – AAPD – Understanding the historical connection between racism and ableism should lead to a connected effort to disable these systems of oppression
What would you say to the person who wants to counter Black Lives Matter with all Lives Matter?
Kathy: SLAP THEM!! oops, wrong answer. If I know them personally I use an example from their own lives to explain, when you are being wronged or struggling with “??”, how do you think it would make you feel if I dismissed you and your concerns because something or someone else were more important than yours? I honestly have to pray through this, it’s so hard and so divisive. It’s a comment so commonly used by people who say they are offended to be called “white privileged” or state “I’m not racist” or worse “Racism no longer exists”. It’s pure and utter IGNORANCE!
Jess: I would just ask the question, “What is your core fear in saying ‘Black Lives Matter'”? Is it a fear that your value will be decreased by acknowledging the value of another group of people? Jesus sacrificially lived and died as an act of Love for all of us (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:8), yet Jesus always went out of his way to care for the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the outcast. He saw their hurt and their brokenness and made a point to elevate them from their low places in society. We should follow Jesus’ example of compassion towards the marginalized, oppressed, poor and outcast, to lift them up with every opportunity we can. If it is difficult for us to do so, we need to identify the core reason why we find that difficult. Is it because we don’t truly believe that God loves us just the way we are? Do we believe that there isn’t enough of His love for ourselves and others? Do we think there is something we can do to make Him love us more or love us less? Seek out and identify the core fear and then ask God to break you free from it. That’s how I started this journey and I’m still on it.
Lindsey: Of course every life matters!! BUT the BLACK LIVES MATTER Movement is a call to action in response to the discrimination, inhumanity, inequity and disregard that has oppressed the Black Race for the past 400 years. NO OTHER RACE has had to live in constant fear because of the color of their skin! If you support the “All Lives Matter” movement, you’re supporting a lie because right now “black/brown” lives still don’t matter everywhere. All lives do not truly matter until Black lives matter AS WELL!!! Until then, that statement is a lie. It’s not complicated. If you still don’t get it, maybe it’s time for some self reflection or for you to do some research. Try watching 13TH and WHEN THEY SEE US on Netflix, Google Redlining 2020,Google Timeline of 1,944 Black Americans Killed.
Implicit bias – do you think it is a real issue and have you experienced it, either as the person with bias or against whom the bias was exercised
Kathy: YES, it absolutely is and l deal with this all the time in my work career. I am a woman in a man’s world, in the union role I am employed and in the corporate world I deal with. I could sooooo relate to AOC speech recently calling out Rep Yoho and his label for her. That is absolutely positively what I deal with ALL THE TIME!
Jess: I’ve definitely experienced implicit bias, both as the object of it and as the beholder of it. Stereotypes are real. The media, our families of origin, our personal experiences, what we’ve been taught about God, have all shaped what we think about ourselves and others. Those ideas and beliefs run deep in our unconsciousness. They have taken decades, and for some of us, lifetimes, to construct so we shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t just magically disappear when we become “woke” to racial/social injustice. I’m learning that part of being an ally is letting go of ego that might keep me from acknowledging the implicit biases that I continue to hold. I can’t let the fear of shame keep me from confessing it and asking God to heal me from it. Shame is not from God. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. He calls us to repentance not to shame or judge us, but to lead us to the freedom He desires for all of us that cannot be separated from social justice.
Lindsey: YES implicit racial bias is an issue because our thoughts often determine our actions, which can lead to discriminatory behavior. Implicit biases are different from the biases we know we have. They live deep in our subconscious. I think we all have them, but we can only discover them through REAL conversations with people of different races, social classes, backgrounds, sexes, etc., which also means with have to be open to the possibility of possessing biases we don’t think we have.
Yes, on the receiving end. I have experienced it multiple times as a woman and as an African American.
Lindsey and Kathy – Jess recommended a few books are there any that you have found particularly helpful to you in this moment?
Kathy: Right now reading and doing bible study through church on “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” Excellent. My son had to read a book in Middle School about the story of Ruby Bridges(I am not remembering the exact title). I read this book as well and was so blown away by all that happened. “White Fragility” is on my list for my next book. The GOSPELS are really my hope and my peace. I keep focused on what Jesus was confronted with and how He responded, that gives me peace, guidance and hope. I just completed the PBS mini series “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” It was awesome and so nicely done, I am still truly blown away by ALL this history we choose not to know or recognize or share. My cousin in VA shared as a middle school teacher she uses this in her curriculum. There’s a lot of documentaries on TV now.
Lindsey: Be the Bridge
Note: The first four book links are to Bookshop an online bookstore where a portion of each purchase supports local brick and mortar bookstores. I picked the authbiographical Ruby Bridges story since Kathy wasn’t sure. The Be the Bridge link (because Bookshop did not have this book and this is also a good place to get books) is to Thirftbooks where the books, as you might be able to guess by the name, are second hand. Finally, you can also support a local (Boston area) black-owned bookstore I will link here. It is not linked above because you cannot link to books on their website. So choose your own adventure but do check out some of these books! And if I (Elizabeth) can just add my own and confuse us with some more links – How to be an Anti-Racist (Dr. Ibram Kendi) and Where do We Go From Here (Dr. Martin Luther King – link is to the King center on this one because a portion of the proceeds for all books goes to them if you buy from there and that feels like a great way to learn and contribute to a great cause!)