As we get ready to welcome Christian Brooks from the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness for the Racial Wealth Gap Simulation on Sunday, I can imagine some of you thinking, “that’s a good idea, but I’m not sure what it has to do with church.”
At last week’s session meeting, I was reminded by members of a Western anti-racism group that has been meeting on an ongoing basis that as a church, we have come a way, but still have a long way to go on our journey towards becoming anti-racist, particularly those of us who have been taught to identify as white. (Here’s a link to their powerpoint presentation.)
To encourage us on our individual journeys, the group has set up a book shelf under the window across the hall from the Courtyard room dedicated to anti-racist books. I strongly encourage you to check it out; they have also put together a great list of resources.
It’s not (yet?) on the list, but I’ve found helpful a book that came out in September, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness. Author and law professor Rhonda Magee teaches practices that in Buddhism are called “mindful” but Christian traditions call “contemplative,” designed to cultivate deeper emotional awareness, no matter our racial or religious background. Magee describes foundational attitudes for racial justice work, of discernment, lovingkindness, compassion, patience, and courage, as well as the ability to accept our ongoing need to learn and capacity to remain in the struggle.
All these attitudes are either explicitly or implicitly described in our scriptures and tradition. We Presbyterians tend to talk more about what we think rather than discern how we need to grow, however, and I believe we’re at a point of discerning next steps. The anti-racism team has identified the overlapping areas of education/empathy/action for their work and our church, and I look forward to discerning our shared next steps.
To that end, we already have this Sunday’s simulation planned, a next step for opening our eyes, educating ourselves about our ongoing need to learn about the effects of racism, no matter how long we’ve been on this journey.
I remember a few years ago, after doing anti-racism training with Jessica Vazquez-Torres through Crossroads, one of you commented that you felt less hopeful than before the training. In my experience, that can sometimes be a response to having our eyes opened. I hope you will come and participate in the racial wealth gap simulation, knowing that the information may be discouraging at some level. Yet, especially for those of us for whom this will be new, I encourage you to remember that we educate ourselves as a community of faith as a spiritual practice, so that we know we are not alone on our individual journeys, so that we may share lovingkindness on the way, and so that we might encourage each other in public acts and taking appropriate action.
I will be at a reunion this weekend and so won’t be able to be present in person – all the more reason I hope that you will be there, able to share Western’s welcome, open mind and heart, with Christian.
Recognizing that we are all at different places on this journey towards racial justice, may you be blessed with discernment, lovingkindness, compassion, patience, openness to what you don’t know, the capacity to stay in the struggle, and the courage to seek and act, all by the grace and peace of Christ,
This Sunday afternoon after worship we will have the opportunity to experience a Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation led by Christian Brooks from the Office of Public Witness.
I have experienced two other simulation in my life. One was a simulation on poverty, and one was a simulation on homelessness. To say that I learned a tremendous amount about both topics and changed my way of thinking about them would be an understatement. The simulations largest effect was my understanding and my recognition that I was not in either of these situations only by life’s circumstances.
Irene and I have had lunch with Christian and we both look forward to her leadership and our learning more about how we can help overcome racial and economic discrimination in our society.
Looking forward to seeing you Sunday.