As I mention in today’s sermon, much of the division we see in the world today comes at the hands of the Church, particularly that part of the Church whose members are white.
Slavery and segregation were both defended in large part by the white Church. Even today, we who carry white privilege have a difficult time seeing racism in ourselves and in the world around us. Some of us actively deny it. Others who see it in others can’t see it in ourselves. Having white privilege doesn’t mean we haven’t had challenges, but it does mean those challenges do not come from being part of a historically racially oppressed group of people. We do not carry the generational trauma inherited from those who were enslaved. We do not experience violence, prejudice, suspicion, or micro-aggressions in public spaces for not looking like most of those around us.
Some of us can’t read the paragraphs above without feeling angry and defensive. Our defensiveness is a sign of the need to practice repentance. The practice of repentance is not just for those we have harmed (though it is crucial if we mean to stop harming them), but it is also for the benefit of our own journey with Christ.
I want to offer a few resources to you that might help you work through your feelings of defensiveness and frustration and work towards repentance and justice. Please contact me if you need a dialogue partner to work through some of these. I’m not a person of color or an expert on racial justice but I may be able to help connect you with those who are. Another great idea is to start a book club with some friends to work through these resources.
If we answer the call of Christ to embody the work of the Trinity in our communities, to affirm unity and diversity in loving relationship, it is essential that we as white people do the work of reflection on our own experience of race and privilege and repent when we uncover the ways we have fallen short.
Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing
We are very fortunate in the Diocese of Atlanta to be the home of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing directed by Dr. Catherine Meeks. This is an Episcopal community here in the Diocese of Atlanta which offers trainings and resources for the work of racial justice and healing. All church staff, leadership, and vestry are required to go through its training on Dismantling Racism, but all are welcome and are encouraged to participate in these trainings!
Explore the website: http://www.centerforracialhealing.org/
Dr. Catherine Meeks
Dr. Catherine Meeks, who directs the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing, is a powerful voice for racial healing and justice. Here are a few podcasts and videos from her:
Key Books on White Privilege and the Work of Anti-Racism:
White Fragility: Why its So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DeAngelo
This book is extremely helpful for white people to reflect on what it means to be white in America, something we rarely think about.
How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
This book is wonderful about clearly defining terms, such as racism, anti-racism, colorism, etc. The major claim of the book is that nothing is ever neutral. It is either racist or anti-racist (either discriminatory/ oppressive or inclusionary/liberative).
me and white supremacy by Layla F. Saad
This is another book for white people to do the work of reflecting on their own racial identity and its role in society. This one, however, includes questions and journaling assingments. It’s a workbook! And it would be excellent to use in a book study with others (that’s what I’ll be doing this summer).
Martin Luther King Jr. on White Moderates
Martin Luther King Jr. has become less of a controversial figure today and is widely praised for his work of racial justice during the civil rights movement. Even then he had much to say to who he called the white moderates. Many of us might even classify ourselves that way today. We are politically moderates or centrists. Some of us may say we are progressives and actually moderates. In any case, here are two things (a letter and a speech) from MLK that give the white community a lot to think about.