This weekend I did something completely out of my comfort zone. I packed my paniers and bicycled with Steve to Hot Springs, NC for a bit of relaxation. It was a big deal for me! Unlike Steve, I did not grow up riding a bicycle. Mastering an e-bike added an unexpected twist. Nevertheless, despite my hesitation and fear of riding in traffic (Hwy 25 has minimal shoulder) I decided to give it a try. I prepared over the last two months by riding this new contraption to the office and around town on errands to conquer my fear. It paid off! Our ride through Alexander, Marshall, Walnut and over the hill into Hot Springs in spectacular weather was more fun than I had imagined. When we returned home I was proud of myself for taking that risk. It was scary at times when big trucks drove by or a few drivers (two to be precise) chose to be rude and honk or get unnecessarily close. But we made it and I was elated at doing something I had never tried or even thought about attempting.
It isn’t easy going outside of one’s comfort zone and feeling vulnerable. Although my weekend, at times, was one of physical vulnerability, I perceive a similarity with the emotional vulnerability that comes with doing the work of exploring white supremacy culture and complicity in that culture, even if unintentional. It has been important to me to learn about the history, writings and legacies of people ignored in history and the literature of my educational experiences. I have gained a greater understanding of systems created in the US and beyond to uphold hierarchies based on skin color and power that favor White males. But reading is not enough. The hard work has been asking myself, “How did I learn to be anti-Black, to be racist?” and, “What will I do differently now that I recognize my biases?”
I once read that marginalized People of the Global Majority cannot be racist because they do not have power. That made sense to me. Furthermore, I thought that I could not a be racist given my life experiences. I have learned otherwise. I have a greater understanding of how I learned to be anti-Black, both in Colombia where I was born and here in the U.S. Because I recognize that reality in me, I catch myself being judgmental and racist. Last week when I was recording the Time for All Ages “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram Kendi, the section that said, “Confess to being racist. Nothing disrupts racism more than when we confess the racist ideas we sometimes express” resonated with me. I am being more mindful of racist ideas that go through my mind. I don’t confess them publicly (although in this blog I am), but I do pay attention, and interrogate where those attitudes are coming from. What socialization and conditioning led me to the attitudes that I am embarrassed to acknowledge?
Of course, I am not always as self-aware as I would like. I sometimes unintentionally offend. I am striving to engage people without making assumptions based on perceived identity. Doing that allows me to listen and be present at times when assumptions would have been a barrier. The gift has been a greater understanding of other perspectives and in some cases the beginning of new relationships. Awareness for how my biases affect my interactions motivates me to be more mindful. I’ve had a lifetime to learn how to be a racist, unlearning it won’t be easy, but I will keep trying.
This year we begin what I hope will be a multi-year focus on antiracism in Faith Development at UUCA. Our recent history and the pandemic have made it impossible to ignore the tragic impacts of racism on our community and nation. I invite you to consider how you will engage, re-engage or deepen your work in becoming an anti-racist. The work involves acknowledging and learning about the effect of White supremacy/racism in our lives and society and mobilizing to pursue justice and equity. What questions do you have? How can we support you? Starting Oct. 8 at 7PM, Rev. Ward will facilitate a second Thursday conversation, “White People Wondering”, to create space for reflection about where you are on the journey of disrupting racism in your life. Various lay leaders are facilitating the UUA adult curriculum, “Building the World We Dream About” as part of the Wednesday Thing programs. And, there are also discussion groups delving into the work of Ibram Kendi and Layla Saad. I welcome your feedback on the programs we are offering and your suggestions for future programs.
Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development