We first considered what happens when we hear “racism” or even just, the term “race.”  Where do these words land in the body?  What emotions could these sensations point to?  The body feelings cited were often in the heart, the throat and were identified as sadness, fear, anxiety, neutral, and pure anger. 

We considered the two questions posed to us by Church and Peace.

  1. How we can move from being non-racist to being anti-racist?
  2. How can we make the links between everyday racism and structural racism?

What does it mean to move from non-racism to anti-racism.  A Friend told a story of her friend who had the following experience in France.  The friend was walking in the street and heard a man verbally attack a woman who was wearing a head covering, yelling at her that she did not belong.  This Friend’s friend stood up to the man and said, “We do not act that way here.  We are not that kind of people.”  The man defended himself by saying that he was being attacked by that statement.  

The following discussion explored what happens when we are faced with this kind of confrontation.  Are we brave enough to speak? When we are brave enough to do so, what are repercussions, and would we be willing to take that on as well?  A Friend said that we must be ready to speak, to be forthright.  We agreed that roleplaying situations would help us to be prepared, emotionally and mentally when situations arise.  We have decided that each one will come up with an example that we could roleplay at a future session.

Later, our conversation turned to considering the person who launched the attack.  Can we find a way to connect with that person?  Can we consider where they come from and what they are feeling?  We acknowledged that this is VERY difficult!  It requires letting go of our defensiveness, of pride, and of righteousness.  

We also considered how racism is both overt and nuanced.  An example of overt racism would be this attack on someone on the street.  Nuanced racism would be something like crossing the street when we see a group of dark-skinned men or hearing a veiled comment from a friend or family member so subtle we question ourselves about whether or not it is racism.  

In many ways, dealing with nuanced racism is more difficult.  We question ourselves.  It may come to us from people we love and need.  Sometimes, we simply cannot comprehend how and why people come to conclusions so different from our own.  How do we remain true to and stand up for what we believe on issues around racism, while also being loving and caring to everyone involved?  

Can we consider approaching these conversations from a place of acceptance?  This could mean being able to accept where we are in our journey.  Similarly, we may be asked to accept where others are in their journey.  Perhaps we would not have the capacity to confront every circumstance.  Perhaps it is enough, and already a lot to simply connect on some level, with someone whose views and opinions differ from ours. 

The challenges are many:  How do we show up with integrity.  How do we stand up to our family, speaking peacefully yet truthfully.  In the end, a Friend pointed out that it is not about changing someone else’s mind, and that with that in mind there is a fundamental shift that occurs.  Perhaps it involves loss, mourning, and being able to let go.

What can we as a faith community do to uphold one another?  A big help is to be available for these in depth conversations, to listen to one another’s experiences, and to be an emotional and psychological support.  The Spiritual Deepening sessions can be one of hte places that we provide this mutual support.

We resolve that we would like to meet again, and perhaps many times again on this topic.  Someone mentioned building “empathy” muscles, and this can be alongside our “anti-racism” muscles, or perhaps they are one and the same.  At the next session we want to:  practice roleplay, and to look again at the question of how to link everyday racism to structural racism.


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