by Kisten Thompson
Eighteen members of Christ the King have been in conversation the past four weeks, discussing the 2019 ELCA Declaration to People of African Descent. The Declaration is an apology, not only to people of African Descent for the 400 years of enslavement, systemic racism and white privilege culture in this country but it also an apology (that is, an explanation) for why we, as Lutherans must not only care about this issue but work to address, lament and repair the damage that has been done. The ensuing conversations have been eye-opening to say the least.
Many participants did not know the extent to which slavery was embedded into the very fabric and foundation of our country from as early as the 1660’s. Many did not know that the Northern colonies were every bit as much involved in slavery as the Southern colonies. Many of us did not know what the Jim Crow laws were all about or how long they lasted or how the after effects continue to linger into 2022. We didn’t have clear understandings of words and ideas like “white privilege”, “white supremacy”, “reparations”, “reconciliation”, and so much more.
Here's what a few of us had to say about the class: “One of many topics that has impacted me is the concept of white privilege. Also, how one group receives privilege or special opportunities which means that there are those who are “other”, that is who do not get those same special privileges but in fact are restricted, set apart, and denied opportunity.”
Another wrote, “this ELCA series has emphasized how embedded structural racism is, not only in our nation’s founding documents, but in our society today. I want our congregation to join the SPAS, and the ELCA, to act on our apology by engaging in the work of anti-racism, racial and economic justice, the study of reparations, as well as addressing and ending current forms of slavery, and human trafficking.”
And finally, one very simply said in our last session, “We need more sessions” and “We have a long ways to go”.
The topics were serious and sometimes very hard, but we all agreed the study was worthwhile and so very important. We all left feeling encouraged, enriched and committed to continuing our learning and the journey. And we did a lot of laughing!
So what’s next? The Racial Justice Working Group will be setting our goals for the coming year in the near future. (And we invite anyone who is interested to join the team!) Participants agreed they wanted to have at least one follow-up to check in with one another again. We all have a new lens with which to view the world, and our community, and current events… a lens of justice, equity, inclusion and “seeing” the neighbor around us.
Peace and Hope to all of you,
The Racial Justice Working Group: Kisten Thompson, Priscilla Berg, John Hanson, Nathan Lemke, Bob Benke, Alice Kaukwarf, Don Zatroch, Sarah Zatroch