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Sagrada Familia 1

Insights, Truth Bombs and Discomfort…

Deborah Stollery

We at ConSpirita Consulting Network are committed to improving leadership, especially ecclesial leadership.  These times of a global pandemic and a global awakening about racism cry out for courageous and humble leaders.  This series of blogs invite you to come along with us as we humbly, courageously, and consistently undertake the work of self-education about racism in the United States, in the Catholic Church and in our own white, privileged lives.

Dana, my best friend and co-owner of ConSpirita Consulting Network, and I are on the journey toward becoming anti-racists.  Just yesterday she observed that our current racist tinted worldview took a lifetime of messaging reinforcing our white privilege, of keeping us safely ensconced in our own racially comfortable enclaves, and of believing that since we did not participate in the overt racial injustices, we could tell ourselves we are not racists.  Her conclusion…becoming an anti-racist will take a long time…maybe more time than we have left on this earth.  And still, we both agree, we have to persist.

As she noted in her last blog, this week we are sharing some of what we’re learning along the journey of awakening to systemic racism, white privilege and Jesus’ call to all his followers to be a people who do not deny or denigrate any person.  All are made in the image of God and so deserve dignity.  So here goes…with all the dis-ease this kind of self-disclosure creates in me…things I’ve learned since awakening to the necessity of this journey:

  • Just this morning, I learned the term “spatial profiling.” Thank you Dr. Lea Schweitz, for your essay “Crossing Boundaries, Confronting Fears.”[i]  I’ve accepted spatial profiling as “the way it is” for my entire life.  You may know these terms, too:  “The other side of the tracks.”  “The Projects.”  “The dividing line.”  “The police patrol line.”  In Martinsburg, WV, about 10 miles south of here, you can still see “the other side of the tracks” played out.  On one side, the homes that once housed the railroad barons of an age gone by are now home to the privileged who are mostly white. On the other side, row houses, townhouses and apartments that once housed railroad mid-level managers and railroad supervisors now house people without as much wealth as those on the other side of the tracks.  And I am more afraid once I cross the tracks. I make sure my car doors are locked. I know I would be fearful if I had to get out of my car.  Spatial profiling. 
  • I have learned that this work for racial justice has been going on for at least three generations in the African American community, and that people concerned with social justice from a number of religious traditions have been involved in this work, often alienated from their faith communities in the pursuit of justice.[ii] Coalitions populated by scholars, activists, religious leaders, business leaders and concerned citizens have been reading, writing, thinking, organizing and lobbying and I’ve only heard of a scant one or two.  Blind to the work for justice. 
  • I am being introduced to writers who are able to articulate the struggles, the journey and the needs in readable, heart-wrenching, honest and practical ways. Books, blogs, articles, poetry…all able to help my heart resonate with theirs. I appreciate their desire to give me, a white woman, some ways to self-educate by seeing from where they dwell.[iii]  Eyes opening. 
  • I am coming to terms with the incredibly uneven history the Roman Catholic Church has with regard to systemic racism. As a Catholic, I am both encouraged and ashamed, enraged and inspired by her voice in this arena.  But make no mistake, the Church needs to be on her own anti-racism journey at the highest levels, where white males lead a patriarchal organization.[iv] And reparations for the sins of the Church can begin now, with me. 
  • I am meeting Black women who teach, preach, lead and inspire with intelligence combined with heart, soul and passion. My heart resonates with theirs and so I find myself gravitating toward them.[v]  Kindred spirits. 
  • I’ve met a whole cadre of teachers along this new journey, from poets to songwriters to dancers and politicians, from authors and speakers to researchers and professors, from white millennials and fellow parishioners, from pastors and neighbors to family and friends. And it’s this that feels different for me about this moment in time.[vi]  Communal conversion.  Hallelujah!

Perhaps these people have always been there, waiting for this moment in history when more of us awakened.  Perhaps God is gifting me with these teachers so I might become more of what God intends.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we are all becoming teachers for each other.  Whatever the case might be, this is what I’m learning.  The endnotes can introduce you to some of these people and organizations…a fraction of the guides this white woman has on the road to anti-racism.  Join me?

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[i] Bearings Online.  October 6, 2020.  https://collegevilleinstitute.org/bearings/crossing-boundaries/ Accessed 10/8/2020.

[ii] For example:  Color of Change, the country’s largest online racial justice organization. NAACP, on the front lines of the struggle for racial justice since 1909,  National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, founded in 1976 and dedicated to increasing civic engagement and voter participation in Black and underserved communities and the National Training Institute on Race and Equity at Morehouse College.

[iii] Ibram Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angie Thomas, Colson Whitehead, Ijeoma Oluo, Tressie McMillan Cottam, Glory Edim  For more see https://www.etonline.com/13-books-by-black-authors-that-explore-race-in-america-149370

[iv] Just use a search engine and enter “Catholic Church and racism” to find a number of treatments of the Church’s uneven history and present. For a recent  enlightening interview, see Shaun Blanchard’s “Communal Guilt and the Black Catholic Experience in America: An Interview with Fr. Josh Johnson.  Church Life Journal. October 7, 2020. https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/communal-guilt-and-the-black-catholic-experience-in-america-an-interview-with-fr-joshua-johnson/?utm_campaign=CLJ_Weekly%20Subscriber%20Email_19-0507&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=97288103&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–vZ8_UIDqX3Fo1-oO12gEk5NUvPidoX6LMFTiN8uXkrepSAfmCxvxT0ZfMn1SH0eH_Em6_-zrI1bTREAWrAlEl_y2AblI8vyIl15rNfQBlEe-39pU&utm_content=97288103&utm_source=hs_email

[v] “When Black Women Lead, We all Win: 10 Inspiring Leaders Show us the Way”  ForbesWomen.  August 17,2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marianneschnall/2020/08/17/when-black-women-lead-we-all-win/#5447117d4513  Black Female Writers:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/30/t-magazine/black-women-writers.html  Carla Harris https://carlaspearls.com/about-carla/  Tara-Nicholle Nelson  http://www.taranicholle.com/  “10 Women of Color Who Are Changing the Face of American Poetry Right Now”  https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/10-women-of-color-who-are-changing-the-face-of-american-poetry-right-now/ Mary Frances Winters  www.wintersgroup.com  All links active as of 10/8/2020

[vi] Perhaps I am most encouraged as I discover friends, parishioners, and millennials in my circle who already have the courage to stand out, speak up and protest.  I did not know just how important you all are to me on this journey toward anti-racism and I am most grateful for all those Fb and IG posts that reveal your courage!

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