I am a watcher: a stand-at-the-side onlooker. Definitely NOT a do-er. All my life I have been more comfortable being a wallflower—someone who is out of the spotlight. Ever since our church started focusing on racial justice issues, I have felt more compelled to start doing SOMETHING. So besides being the Mission Coordinator at CMC, I am the chair of the Reparation Group. I am out of my comfort zone.
The need for white people to experience being uncomfortable, as it relates to issues of race, is one of the messages I’ve received in readings and discussions about racial inequality. I, we, have the privilege of ignoring the disparities, because we are doing just fine. But it is time we dig deeper into the problems. As Richard Rohr wrote in his book, Falling Upward, “The shape of evil is much more superficiality and blindness than the usual listed ‘hot sins’. God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything. Sin is to stay on the surface.” (pg. 95) It is possible that if the real, meaningful work had been done in the past we wouldn’t need slogans like “Black Lives Matter” today.
Meaningful work is: 1) digging into our true history of how we became the people we are. Adam Glass has done a tremendous amount of research into the history of Columbus. He shared some of his findings during this time in February. For our meeting this past Tuesday we asked Adam to gather more historical information. Columbus has a horrible track record for racial justice, dating all the way back to statehood and continuing today. For example, Adam found that Columbus ranks 8th from the bottom for minority homeownership in major cities in the country.
Meaningful work is: 2) truth-telling, pointing out lies and filling in incomplete information. Sometimes government policies are justified with coded language that hides their actual purpose. A current example of this is the use of the phrase, “voter integrity.” Conservative politicians are using this to put more restrictions on voting rights that will affect minorities the most. So in this case, “voter integrity” = voter suppression. A term for the code words used in this way is “Dog Whistle Politics.” There is a book written by Ian Haney Lopez titled, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class.
Meaningful work is: 3) getting more than one group’s perspective. In 2016, the year CMC chose to talk about racial disparity issues, I participated in the class that read and discussed Drew Hart’s book: The Trouble I’ve Seen. In one of the early chapters Drew shared an experience that grabbed my attention. He described a discussion he had with a white pastor friend that wanted to find out more about life perspectives from a Black person’s point of view. That pastor used a fast food cup with designs on two sides. He told Drew, “Because I can’t see what is on your side of the cup, I need you to share your perspective. ...Likewise, …because you can’t see what is on my side…you need me to share my point of view so that you can understand the world from my vantage point.” (p. 24)
Drew’s response has stuck with me. He wrote, “…this is not how things actually work… [for] I did know what was on his side of the cup.” (p. 25) Drew went on to say that his education has been from the perspectives of white people. He learned white Eurocentric history, read books mostly written by white authors, and watched white dominated and controlled television. Drew posits his so-called success is due to his ability to meet white standards. I had never thought about the fact that my education had been so monochrome or one colored, so to speak.
There is so much to learn, and I, mistakenly, keep focusing on how we as a church, how can we keep up reparation work after this group shares its findings in April? But I was reminded, this past week, that the goal for now is to find organizations led by indigenous people and organizations led by Blacks that we want to support. To make this activity more personal, we have decided to focus on local groups. We have researched several groups and will be discussing which two or three seem to best align with our goals. By April 9th we will have a report to present to the Leadership Team that will include our rationale for our choices. If LT approves, the report will then be shared with you at the congregational business meeting April 25.