I grew up in a family that yelled derogatory epithets at the tv when people who were different than us appeared in any program. I always knew that, and all of the other racist acts I witnessed in our culture, were wrong. But I fell victim to the racial training in spite of my instincts; I internalized my racial superiority and privilege in ways that would take me decades to understand. When I was a senior in college, I turned my back on a black man who was being snubbed by my white classmates. I knew it was wrong even in the moment I was making the choice, but in that moment I didn’t know what else to do. It’s a pivotal experience that still motivates me.
Studying forms and theories of oppression before, during and since my graduate work in psychology was a passion; my dissertation focused on the intersection of racism, sexism and heterosexism. I was privileged to be involved in a discussion group at Wellesley College with Peggy McIntosh for a year, learning much about systemic racism. When I moved back to Kzoo, I continued my journey with the 2 ½ day ERAC/Ce training, and other opportunities to keep peeling away the complex layers. I currently facilitate the Beloved Conversations chalice circle that provides a safe place to explore.
I now understand that anti-racism work is not just about getting rid of my personal conscious, unconscious and unintentional acts of bias. It is not just about learning to be a congregation who is welcoming to all who come through our doors. It is also about understanding the systemic nature of local, state, and federal laws and policies that continue to keep large numbers of people from living free and satisfying lives. And, close to home, it’s about People’s Church doing the hard work of discovering how their policies, procedures, rituals, and habits reflect White culture in an unintentional way that allows the system of privilege to continue.
May all beings be safe. May all beings be at peace.
By Carolyn Heineman