Learning to See through the Lens of Race: Old First E-pistle 10.27.16

Learning to See through the Lens of Race: Old First E-pistle 10.27.16

Last Sunday, our “Sacred Conversation on Race” (SCOR) concluded a series of workshops, White Privilege 101. This series was a response to conversations that we’ve had with many Old Firsters who want 1) to develop a deeper understanding of the origins of racism and white privilege, and 2) to gain the tools needed to have substantive conversations with others, and especially those with whom we might disagree.

In a two part presentation, Origins of American Racism, Michael J. asked the questions, “Where did racism come from? What purpose did it have in the establishment of our country? How did white as an identity come to be? What purpose does whiteness serve?”

Beth Walker helped us understand the that racism is the basis for mass incarceration, the new Jim Crow. She described the economic cost of mass incarceration and the impact of the prison industrial complex on our country’s economy.

These workshops provided us with a broad perspective on how racism was planted, took root, and grows in our country.

So, we ask what’s next? What do we do now? Maybe the word “do” is a problem if we assume that it means doing something about racism and finding more ways to improve race relations in our society. Been there. Done that. Still doing it. Will keep on doing it. We’ve come a long way, too far to stop now, but now it is time to step back and talk about the greatest impediment to racial equality in our society, white privilege.

Privilege is an advantage or a favor, a personal right that is good for the one who has it and bad for the one who doesn’t. Privilege may be earned or granted, and it may simply exist, unearned and unrecognized by those who enjoy it.

Our Sacred Conversation turns now to “White Privilege — Let’s Talk: A Resource for Transformational Dialogue,” the UCC adult curriculum to frame our thinking and our on-going discussions (for more details on the curriculum, see http://privilege.uccpages.org; and look for more details — dates and times — as we get the next steps in our Old First Sacred Conversation organized).

This curriculum challenges white participants simply to commit to seeing. Ask yourself every day this simple question: “What do I see?” Begin to filter all your experiences through the lens of race. For whites, that not only sounds challenging—it sounds ridiculously unjust. After all, aren’t we trying to reduce the impact of race? Isn’t our goal NOT to filter things through the lens of race?

If you are a person of color, you know that there is not a day that goes by where you are afforded the luxury of NOT filtering your experience through the lens of race. White people in America don’t have to do that, and will find it difficult to begin thinking that way. It is the NOT seeing things through the lens of race that makes privilege invisible to whites.

Begin seeing. Be open to knowing what things happen or don’t happen because you are white. It will feel awkward, disruptive, and disorienting—until it stops feeling that way. The work by whites to understand white privilege is more than the work of justice: it is the work of spiritual healing.

The SCOR Ministry Team is in the process of deciding exactly how we will use this curriculum at Old First. We invite those who are interested in this planning effort to contribute their ideas and skills. All are welcome. This is not a permanent committee appointment. It’s one task, an important task, that needs doing. We hope you will consider helping.

Please contact any member of the SCOR team – Barbara G., Michael J., Delilah M., Tony M., Margaret R, Beth W., Jackie W., and Gerry W., write a note on the friendship pads at worship, or give your e-mail address to Margaret R. so we can include you in our planning meetings.

All are welcome,

Margaret R.