One of the primary goals of the Board is to encourage and lead continued anti-racism work within People’s Church. As one small step in what will be a long and continuing journey, the Board participated in a training with facilitators from ERACCE (Eliminating racism and claiming/celebrating equality) in February. Unfortunately, I came down with the flu and was unable to attend, but I heard it was an excellent experience. Three of my fellow trustees have shared with me some thoughts on what they learned and felt during the training.
Each came in with an understanding of the problems caused by racism in our culture. It’s hard to miss when two African American men can’t sit and wait for their friend to show up at a Starbucks without being arrested. But the extent that racism is woven into every aspect of our society so that white people benefit was more surprising for some. This institutionalized racism was set into place for the sole purpose of making sure that people of color would be kept from parity with whites in power, wealth, housing, education, health, their rights under the law and equal employment. It’s something that whites don’t often notice—like a fish, swimming in murky water, it’s all we know, and it’s that pervasive. This training is helpful in making it clearer.
Understanding this for the first (or second or fifth or 100th) time can bring out a lot of feelings. My co-members reported feeling rage, dismay, shame, an abiding sadness, fear of making a verbal misstep and hurting someone. But there were also positive emotions as the training went on such as joy that things could better through working together, compassion, hope. Connections can be made. And empathy. Empathy is so important as we move on this journey. The act of trying to understand where another person is coming from, what their experiences have been like, to see them fully there.
I was curious also to know what questions the training brought up for them and where they wanted to go from here. Their answers resonated with the need to know more, to be more active, to work toward making a more equitable community, to be more sensitive and to be more aware of their own privilege-to step more lightly in the world. Questions included how to stay aware, and how to keep hopeful.
How to keep hopeful? That is a hard question to answer. I can tell you that the Board taking the time and effort to go through this training and the responses of my colleagues make me feel hope, if that helps. So thank you all for that.
Thank you also to the Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Multi-Cultural (ARAOMC) Committee members who helped coordinate the training and provided some after meeting thoughts to the Board via email that were very helpful.
If you have any questions about ARAOMC or are interested in being involved in anti-racism training, please let anyone of us know.