“The function of freedom is to free someone else.” – Toni Morrison
Many of us have heard that it’s best to avoid politics and religion when talking to folks who may have differing views on the subjects. While racism wasn’t ever named as one of these formidable topics, it was definitely another subject to avoid. The theory was the conflict that arises from such conversations would fracture relationships and families. Instead, we now know the desire to avoid conflict, to keep the peace, hasn’t helped us avoid conflict as much as it’s given us license to avoid one another. We begin to lose the image of God in one another when our brothers, sisters, and siblings in Christ become reduced to issues or talking points. Contrary to what many of us have heard, talking about difficult subjects, even when they bring conflict, gives us the freedom to see and be seen by one another in the fullness of who we are.
Talking about racism is hard. Talking about white supremacy is even harder. For white folks, it pushes buttons many of us didn’t realize were there. Acknowledging the ways in which we have been complicit in systems that prioritized our whiteness and caused undue and unyielding harm on People of Color is difficult. To deflect from this pain we can incorrectly think “those were the sins of our ancestors, perhaps, but we are different.” We see racism as an invasive plant, and seek to pull it from the soil anytime a new sprout appears. Yet, in our desire to separate ourselves from the sins of racism, we remain willfully blind to our complicity in supporting a system that has relegated People of Color to the margins of society. We miss that racism isn’t an invasive weed; it’s the soil we are all growing in.
Over the last few years, as we at More Light have been on the journey to uncover our own entanglement with the dominant norms of whiteness, we often find ourselves in the midst of difficult, but necessary, conversations. At the end of these conversations, rather than feeling a deeper level of conflict with one another, each of us feels more connected and seen. The people of color in the room feel more seen and heard when they share the pain of living in a world that devalues their identity; the white folks feel more equipped to examine their complicity in that world. This conflict doesn’t bring more division, it brings deeper trust. There is a real freedom in being able to look at one’s actions and intentions, in hearing the ways in which we’ve been harmed and caused harm, and to hold one another in love as we make this journey together.
In these difficult times, we at More Light see our work as helping faith communities get to the roots of injustice, and in particular to help congregations grasp at the ways white supremacy has contorted Christian institutions and theologies, so that we don’t further reinforce white supremacy in our work for justice. Even more, we believe this is the path we are called to take as we seek to follow the path of Christ, and we are grateful for your willingness to be on this path with us.
Tomorrow is Part 3 of our Racial Justice Teach-In series. Throughout this series, our co-trainers have offered a working understanding of racism and white supremacy, discussed how to engage white fragility, and offered some tools to equip us for the journey. In Part 3 we will address:
- Tactics used to de-center whiteness in our work
- How we debunk the notion that the values of white supremacy only function in spaces where white people are present
- Distinguish between white silence and decentering whiteness
- Biblical stories that point towards what it means to decenter whiteness
- Case studies that look at how to decenter whiteness in a session meeting
- How we hold ourselves accountable to showing up against white supremacy
If you aren’t able to join us for the live webinar tomorrow, you can still register. Within a couple of days we will share a link to watch the original footage from the teach-in. In a few weeks, we will send you a link to download the edited Teach-In and discussion guide through our website.