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Friday, 28 December 2018 19:19

Building the Beloved Community: Racism and Beyond

Written by Kitty Schiltz
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Kitty Schiltz – Seattle Chapter

In November, instead of their usual meeting, seven Seattle Affiliates attended the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center’s workshop by that name. It was presented by two Notre Dame Sisters who work with Pax Christi: Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, and Anne Louis Nadeau, Director of Programs. This dynamic duo presented a fast-paced exposé of racism—its history and effects. They defined racism as America’s original sin against people of color, including those of African, African-American, Caribbean, Latino, or Middle Eastern ancestry.

In groups, we discussed why talking about racism is taboo among white people and how we identify ourselves as white. Our group had a mixture of people of color and white. It came down to the belief that white people, mostly in denial of their role in racism, feel shame, fear, or pain when discussing it. White privilege is both conscious and unconscious. Racism combines personal racial prejudice and the misuse of power by systems and institutions.

Dominion in the Americas began in the 1400s when Nicholas V pronounced a Papal Bull giving Christian explorers dominion over all “discovered” lands and peoples who were not Christian. This encouraged the enslavement of all native, non-Christian peoples in Africa and the New Word. We reviewed a long list of legislative actions in the US, from the Separate-But-Equal Ruling in 1896 to the education of American Indian children, Chinese exclusion, Mexican Repatriation, the Japanese-American internment, and the GI Bill of 1944.

Racism cripples all of us. “White” people have internalized racial superiority, and “people of Color” have internalized racial oppression. Celebrating differences instead of being pitted against the other makes for a society that moves all in a positive direction. To change unjust systems, we must change traditional values to transformational values. Either/or thinking can become both/and, with a bias towards action. A worldview of abundance versus scarcity gets power shared rather than maintaining organizations. Exchanging another traditional value—the secrecy model—for transparent communication brings consensus to decision-making. And the traditional value of individual action, which fosters competition and kills creativity, needs to change to cooperative and collaborative models.

I came to realize the need for conversation in order to get beyond denial and move toward positive dialog and probably reparations. As Christian Americans seeking justice, we need to face up to our role in racism. Though I knew about our history of injustice, I still have not figured out how I personally can do much about it. This workshop helped me focus on the problem. Solutions are still not obvious to me other than dialog and reparations, including real action on equal rights to education and to the law. Somehow, we need to see similarities among people instead of differences. We are all equally loved by the Spirit and have the same Spirit in us.


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