2017 Lenten Book Study Reflections on Race

By Linda Schweppe, CtK Member and Book Study Participant

I had the opportunity to participate in one of the small group book studies of Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin: Race, Privilege and the Bridge to a New America during Lent. I knew that I would learn about racism in our country, but did not realize the extent of how this information would impact me.

My group met on Sunday evenings for five weeks. Our two leaders were very well-trained about the topics to be discussed, asked insightful questions and guided our discussions in a sensitive and honest manner. Being a respectful listener and a respectful participant was important and honesty was encouraged. Participating in this small group became more comfortable each time we met. We were welcomed to just listen then participate when we had something we wanted to ask or had a thought to share.

Some moments, ideas, and facts have continued to stick with me even though the study is over; these include:

·      The United States was established as a white society, founded  upon the near genocide of another race as well as the enslavement of another race.

·      Wallis’ statement, “...as Europeans of various cultural backgrounds all became ‘white’ when they arrived in America they not only took on a new national identity, but also a new white cultural identity.”

·      The difference between racism and prejudice; racism is prejudice + power.

·      Our criminal justice system is failing. There is an alternative called restorative justice, a biblical conception of justice that seeks to repair the damage that crime brings to victims and the community and that the offender brings upon him or herself.

·      Taking an online implicit bias test at home and talking about the “a-ha moments” we discovered.

·      By 2045, the USA will have a majority of minorities.

·      Wallis’ conclusion that, ‘“seeking, finding, learning, welcoming, embracing and creating new relationships and frameworks for a richly multiracial culture, with economics and politics that reflect our diversity is the great task before us now.”

And, these have led me to ask the questions:

·      Is white supremacy the same as white privilege?

·      What are the benefits of white privilege that we

·      experience?

·      Martin Luther King, Jr. stated 50 years ago that, “I am ashamed and appalled that 11:00 on Sunday mornings is the most segregated hour in Christian America.” Has it improved?

·      What should CtK’s role be now that we are aware that people of color are treated so differently from white people?

I learned a lot about myself while reading this book and discussing the topics with others. I have felt a whole range of emotions as I have learned about the concept of white privilege and all those things I have taken for granted. My eyes and my heart have been opened wider for those who are less fortunate. I am making a conscious effort to watch daily for instances where I can “make a difference with my actions and with my words.”

In conclusion, I encourage all to read this book and to take part in this book study when it is offered again.