A couple weeks ago, I read a blog post that linked to another that got me thinking in new ways about my role in making change in America today. The blog post I initially read included this sentence: “When black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs.”
That statement hit home. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve served as a cofacilitator of our church’s antiracism discussion group for the past two years. (We are on our first hiatus in two years and will start up again in September with reading The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande.)
Early in our group’s time together, we presumed our talk would lead to action. However, it has proven more difficult than we imagined to take action—first because of pandemic restrictions, then recognizing the fragility of many of our group members, then struggling to find ways we could act that would make a difference and not just be performative. It’s been harder than we thought, and that has been discouraging.
Slowly, we became a book club. It’s not a bad thing. We have learned a lot about American history and systemic racism today. (I really like this definition of racism from the Australians, in part because no one here in America can accuse them of red-state/blue-state bias!) Members of our group work hard not to be prejudiced, and we have also learned how we are all racist (regardless of our skin color), simply because of our unconscious biases based on our background, assumptions of how the system will work in our favor (or not!), and other factors. We are having good conversations and likely are educating others.
There’s no question that I’ve learned a lot—and have more to learn. I’ve read, watched, and listened. I’ve asked questions at the recent SDI conference about how to increase teacher diversity in the Hesychia School of Spiritual Direction. I’ve guest-preached on the topic and written about it here. I’ve done my best to take on the role of ally for those impacted by racism in this country, but most of my work has taken the form of education.
That, in itself, could be enough. Education is an integral part of my calling. It’s also more than many people do. But if America is going to change for the better, we are called to do more.
So, what does that look like? Next week, I’ll reflect on another idea from that blog post I mentioned. Meanwhile, I invite you to take that Australian definition of racism to prayer and see what God brings into your mind and heart. What new role might you be called to embrace?