Carolyn HeinemanThe Antiracist Organization: What DO We Know?

The ARAOMC (Anti-Racist Anti-Oppression Multi-Cultural) Committee is advocating for People’s Church to commit formally to becoming an antiracist organization.  Appropriately, several individuals have asked us to describe what an “antiracist organization” looks like.  Good question.  Important question.  I have two nonspecific answers to offer for your consideration.

The first answer is that no one has ever healed racism in this country, or in any one organization before.  There are smart dedicated people a few yards out in front of us on the path that we can follow—but the reality is that even they are just building the road as they go.   We don’t have a tried-and-true manual to follow.  We’re in very new territory.  And, every organization is different in important ways.  And that means that each organization’s journey is unique.

My second answer to this question tries to identify some basic traits that we’re pretty sure every AR organization will have.  So, what we’re pretty sure we DO know is:

1) …that significant change in any organization is a multi-generational effort, as compared to a few months of checking off a short list of criteria.

2) …that every person in the organization— member, friend, minister, staff, volunteer—will be knowledgeable and thoughtful about the systemic nature of racism.  They will have taken the time to get training, talk to each other, and hold each other accountable for practicing new thought processes and ways of operating

3) …that the transformation must be within each individual as well as at the system level.  We each will become aware of our own racial identity and how it impacts our relationships, our behaviors, our church, and our community.  Crossroads/ERACCE uses the terms Internalized Racist Superiority (IRS) and Internalized Racist Oppression (IRO) to frame this work.

4) … that the transformation must be between individuals—all of the interpersonal and organizational processes we have established to run the organization. We will need to be knowledgeable and skillful about the aspects of racism our organization is unintentionally replicating or intentionally dismantling.  This includes leadership, decision-making processes, committee work, music, membership, greeters, worship, physical facility, and more.  Most of us are unaware of the extent to which the methods we see as democratic and ‘good’ are actually anchored in White culture, and have a high likelihood of being experienced as acts of oppression by members of marginalized groups.

So that’s what we know.  Are you up for the challenge?  The journey is neither simple nor comfortable.  I invite you to take a deep breath, put on your cloak of courage, and join us.

May all beings be safe,

Carolyn Heineman

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