Doing Our Own Work

Here at Columbus Mennonite, we will be talking about and working on issues of race through the next year.  This is a commitment we have made in an effort to be the Church in this particular moment in history.  It is also worth considering, however, the ways in which we are making this an ongoing and consistent part of our life together.  As I think about my own part in this process for the current year and beyond, I find myself asking questions about how we can educate ourselves on the intersections of race and faith and “form” ourselves into the kind of people who actively disrupt racism on multiple levels.

What are the specific goals of such an educational and formational endeavor?  What are the assumptions on which we carry forth these goals?  As a predominantly white congregation, how do we remain accountable to people of color?  Alternatively, how do we honor the diverse experiences of race among us and help these unique experiences guide us in figuring out what it means to do our own individual and collective work to disrupt racism. 

While pondering this last question, I was reminded of something a colleague of mine from seminary posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago.  It was a photo of a list made by a group on campus that was trying to figure out what it means to do their own work in regards to racism.  The title of the list was “How racism harms/damages white people.” 

I would never want to downplay the importance of understanding the innumerable ways that racism harms/damages people of color.  As someone who is white, however, this list became a reminder that in many ways my own liberation is tied to the undoing of racism, a reminder that I have my own unique work to do related to my whiteness.  There is a danger for white people to think that participation in anti-racism work is just something nice we can do to help out someone else, an extracurricular we get to pick when it doesn’t ask too much of us. 

But undoing racism requires all of us to do our own unique work as if our lives depended on it.  As we begin to enter these conversations, I invite you to trouble the waters and spend some time thinking about how racism harms/damages you and what it would mean to be collectively liberated from its grasp.