By Conference Minister Diane Weible
It’s time for us to think seriously about reparations. What better time than to invite discernment and reflection then at the start of Lent.
The “Making Amends” resolution approved at Annual Gathering is something that invited me to think about reparations in a new way and look for opportunities to engage in reparations to make a difference. This would not replace the important conversation our country needs to have about reparations, but we shouldn’t wait for someone else to do our work for us.
One of our ministers, Rev. Barry Cammer, sent me an article this week for the newsletter. His article connected with my own thoughts and took me to another level, which, I believe, is what we all need to be doing on a regular basis if we want to change the way we act and think. We have to engage in conversations about racial justice, racism and white supremacy as often as we can, which includes but is not limited to participating in conversations with friends and colleagues, reading books, watching movies, and participating in trainings.
Here is an excerpt from Rev. Cammer’s article (See below for link to full article and for more information):
What do I do when I begin to wake up to the reality that, as a white person in our society, I’ve been the recipient and beneficiary of white privilege? This privilege has helped me to attend good schools, live in a good neighborhood, obtain a low-interest mortgage for my home, and be more employable in my careers. What do I do?
As our nation continues to come to terms with our past and current personal and structural racism, my home church, Arlington Community Church, in Kensington, California, chose to start a Racists Anonymous group. In this group, we have an opportunity to own our national and personal history. We are invited to move beyond our own defensiveness and own not only the decisions that we make every day, but the decisions by governments, made in our names, that have built a society that gives preferential treatment to those of us who are white, and life-suffocating realities to most who are not. For many decades, there has been conversation and debate around the margins of our society about reparations. Usually paid by a government, this notion recently became very personal for me.
In one of the Zoom meetings of Racists Anonymous (now called Becoming Anti-Racist), a member of the group mentioned the notion of personal reparations. I was stunned, then nervous, and ultimately awakened to the truth that part of what I have, has come to me at the expense of my Black brothers and sisters. Although unintentional and not consciously, I have hurt, and continue to hurt, part of my community.
What do we do when we’ve hurt or wronged someone? What does our faith call us to do when we’ve wronged someone? We make amends. We do justice. We repair the damage.
We hear all kinds of stories about people and communities that suffer because of the skin color of most of their members. Buying homes or making bail if you have been arrested is possible for one part of our population and not for another. We see how a routine traffic stop results in a respectful conversation if your skin is one color and a threat on your life if your skin is a different color. We are learning the disproportionate percentage of Black and Latino men in prison. Just recently, we have all watched with horror as Asian Americans in our own community are being attacked.
Thanks to video cameras and social media, these stories are being seen and heard in ways that cannot be ignored and that cannot be buried. I can no longer turn my ears or close my eyes and claim that even if true, it wasn’t intentional, or the story must have been twisted. My head is out of the sand and the more I learn the more I know I need to learn. It is not a matter only of intention but also impact. And, it is no longer someone else’s responsibility but my responsibility to pay attention and take action.
Once we begin to listen to the stories, we begin to understand not just how racism has created our current reality but how all of us are swimming in the water that will allow these stories to be repeated over and over if we don’t do something to stop it. As we begin the 40 days of Lent, I want to invite you to a practice I was introduced to this week related to storytelling. Lent of Liberation: Confronting the Legacy of American Slavery, by Cheri Mills, is a book that offers a reading for each day of Lent. I just began this book and I hope some of you will join me in this journey.
Reparations. Storytelling. They may not offer all the answers, but they certainly begin to shift our consciousness to what we thought was true in order to face what really is true.