Who is ready for what racial justice conversation?

Tool box single icon.The United Methodist Church provides  this very useful toolkit, applicable to any group. In my experience, most groups of white people in Princeton are in the introductory category. Those who gather at Not in Our Town’s Continuing Conversations at the Princeton Public Library are in the ‘What’s Next” or “Veteran” categories.
Where do you belong? Excerpts below 
The resources below are offered to provide tangible and meaningful learning engagements for individuals and small groups. They are for both laity and clergy and can be used contextually in church, church and community conversations, individual reflection, or sermon preparation. They are separated by “entry-point” groups. Read the descriptions for each category to determine the best fit for where you are entering into the work of racial justice and equity right now. 
 

INTRODUCTORY: For preachers and/or churches who are just entering into the work of racial justice and equity. Beliefs about racial injustice or terror have not been preached from the pulpit. The term “white supremacy” describes only the acts of “fringe groups” like the KKK, cross-burning, or lynching but not associated with historic or contemporary Christianity. The events of Charlottesville were shocking because it was believed that “we were past that” or “we didn’t realize those fringe groups were still around.”


WHAT’S NEXT? 
For pastors and/or churches who are able to define “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” and “anti-racism.” Beliefs about racial injustice or terror have been preached from the pulpit and many people will have also participated in intercultural competency or anti-racism workshops. The term “white supremacy” describes both acts of the KKK and white nationalist groups as well as systemic racism that benefits those who are racialized as white. The events of Charlottesville were shocking because it was believed that radical white supremacist groups were not “part of our neighborhoods and churches.” Statements like, “go home” and “we won’t put up with that here” were used to separate everyday acts of white supremacy or the “people who would attend the rally” from who “we” are.
    • Many people have been shocked by the events of Charlottesville. What is more difficult is for some is to connect the events of Charlottesville with white privilege or systemic racism. What was most shocking to you about the events in Charlottesville? Why were they shocking for you? Create a list with the connections between white privilege and the events of Charlottesville. Reflect and discuss.
    • Many people consider Charlottesville a “one-off” event. Some consider it an event which also sparked responses such as those occurring the next weekend in Texas, California, and Massachusetts. Google the “response events” and discuss the similarities and differences between them. Now consider how Charlottesville is connected to other events/decisions based in white supremacy and systemic racism. After reflecting and discussing the connections in “society out there” consider seriously the connections in “the church right here.”
    • Many of the events of Charlottesville were captured on video, many were not. Share anything you have heard from those who were at Charlottesville (either that you heard in person or read a witness account) that were not captured on video. What are the similarities and differences of what was publicized widely and what wasn’t? Reflect and discuss the “both sides” argument that indicates fault/blame on both protestors (those who were protesting the removal of the confederate statue) and counter-protestors (those who were protesting against the “Unite the Right” rally). What evidence are you using? Why?
    • Now that you have seen the events that occurred in Charlottesville, what does it mean for you/your church/sermons to bear witness to them? What evidence will you use?
  • Baptism and Call to Justice
    • Many of the UMC Bishops in their statements and UMC preachers in their sermons responded to the events of Charlottesville with a call to remember our baptismal vows. This resource provides a step by step reflection and engagement of the UMC baptismal vows as it relates to anti-racism. After reviewing the vows which can be found in the the United Methodist Hymnal, what concrete, specific, actionable, and measurable steps will you/your small group/your church take to enact our baptism in the fight against white supremacy and racism in all of its forms?
  • Wait… That’s Privilege?
    • Depending on how much work you/your group/your church has done with privilege (racial, economic, gender, etc) consider adding or substituting the following questions in the “post quiz questions for consideration:”
    • Compare the protests in Ferguson and counter-protests Charlottesville. Make a list of the similarities and differences. How does race influence these similarities or differences? How, if at all, did racial privilege affect safety, police response, or descriptions of the events?
    • Name your own privileges in your own words. How will you use your privileges to do the work of dismantling and defeating white supremacy and racism in all of its forms? Name those actions specific to that work IN the church.
  • The Rev. Dr. William Barber, Disciples of Christ pastor and architect of the Moral Movement, offers a succinct, historical, and powerful overview of ways to situate white supremacy within the larger American context as well as provide a roadmap for future action here. After watching the video, reflect on and discuss the following Individual or Small Group Questions:
    • What does Dr. Barber say is the difference between denouncing Charlottesville and denouncing white supremacy?
    • What does Dr. Barber say is the difference between and the usefulness of addressing the “statues” and the “statutes” of white supremacy?
    • How does Dr. Barber refute the claim of “I am not a racist” when only based on someone having a Black or Brown friend?
    • Barber mentions the names of many Civil Rights sheroes and heroes who have died and empowers us to consider ourselves their children who will continue the fight today. Name 3 Civil Rights ancestors whose legacy you will connect with and continue. (For white people, it is imperative to name at least 1 white person active in the work of Civil Rights with whom you can claim affinity.)
    • What specific actions will your church take within the next week and the next month to engage in some of the specific action items that Dr. Barber suggests in fighting white supremacy?


VETERAN (
What Else Can We Say/Do): For preachers and/or churches who have been doing the work of anti-racism for a long time in multiple arenas: from the pulpit, attending and offering workshops, activism, changing structures and policies within the local and/or connectional church to ensure racial justice and equity. The term “white supremacy” describes both acts of the KKK and white nationalist groups as well as systemic racism that benefits those who are racialized as white. The events of Charlottesville were shocking because the rally was in broad daylight and the Klan no longer wore hoods. The connections between the expressions of white supremacy at Charlottesville and the day-to-day expressions of white supremacy are historic, deep, and entrenched. This group might have difficulty figuring out “what else” to say or be and is burnt out from what Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown calls “Justice Fatigue” that they need care themselves.

  • Listening in Diversity: Different Ways of Thinking about Tolerance
    • First go through the learning engagement as it is. Then add the following questions:
      • What is the difference between tolerance and understanding someone who thinks differently than you, according to the resource? Consider whether you “tolerate” or are in “community with” people who have different perspectives about Charlottesville. What would it take for you/your church to do more than “tolerate” a person who has a different perspective on taking down confederate statues, the right to hold rallies and the right to free speech, or Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter?
      • Consider the Tolerance Paradox attributed to Karl Popper in 1945 which states that tolerance cannot tolerate intolerance because the first thing intolerance does is to eradicate tolerance. Read that statement again. Reflect and discuss your thoughts about this. Do you think tolerance (in the sense of allowing for multiple perspectives to be valid even when people don’t agree upon them) is ever “allowed” have intolerance for anything? In other words, does intolerance of intolerance make us tolerant or intolerant? If not – how does our Christian faith help us to draw the line in faithful places?
  • The Trouble with Conformity
    • Add or substitute the following questions in light of the events at Charlottesville.
    • Consider the statement, “Resistance to oppression requires creativity.” What aspects of your faith help to create spaces for and defend creativity? How has conformity to Christian doctrine or traditions helped to assist oppression and oppressive systems? What does it mean to “be the Church” in light of Charlottesville?
    • Some Christians would not participate in the non-violent counter-protest organized by Congregate Charlottesville (or in the taking down of confederate statues before laws were changed) because they did not agree with participating in civil-disobedience. Some Christians denounce the acts of the “Antifa” because, while the “Antifa” are committed to non-violence as a default, they are not opposed to using violence to defend themselves or others in response to physical violence. How do you discern where the line is between conformity and creativity in the work of anti-racism or destroying white supremacy?

LONG-TERM ACTIVISM (When Those in the Fight Need Care): 
Sermons with discussion questions – especially for those who are burnt out from years of anti-racism activism and work and/or are “sick and tired of being sick and tired” (Fannie Lou Hamer).
  • Jesus, Justice Fatigue, and Why Being Black is Exhausting
  • All the Charlestons: We Press On for Justice
  • Further reflection and discussion questions after watching these videos:
    • How did you respond to the events of Charlottesville? If you were there, describe your participation and perspective. Reflect and discuss how your previous work in anti-racism affected your response (in whatever form including internal responses and not actively engaging in public response) to Charlottesville.
    • If you are a person who is directly targeted by the oppression and terror of white supremacy – how did you (are you) seek/ing care for yourself since Charlottesville?
      • What do you do individually?
      • What do you do (or not do) in different communities in which you participate?
      • How does your faith or the examples of your faith-filled sheroes and heroes inform your regimen of self-care?
      • Do you ever feel guilty for needing or participating in self-care? What aspects of your faith or examples from others might help alleviate your guilt for taking the time for self-care?
    • If you are burnt out right now – how would you like others to support you?
    • How might the work of multi-racial coalitions doing the work of anti-oppression together create spaces for self-care even in the midst of the ongoing struggle for liberation and safety for all? How much time will you protect for yourself before working to create or participate in a multi-racial, intersectional, anti-oppression coalition?
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