Can those in white skin ever understand racism?
    July 26 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    Being born white in America endows a person with privilege he or she likely never realizes, but that skin color clears obstacles in life that block the path for persons cloaked in a different color.

    At least that is the insight that two dozen people at a racial reconciliation conference in Charlotte July 13 gained from black participants who shared specifics about what it means to live as a minority in a “racialized” culture.

    Meeting at Sardis Baptist Church people with a commitment to bridging the gap that artificially separates people of different races questioned, discussed and revealed to each other the barriers they saw in their own lives.

    What difference can two dozen people make in a world where race separates billions? Leaders concluded that individuals make all the difference and that one by one, barriers can be pulled down.

    Their goal is not just diversity in the public square, but true reconciliation, they said. They long for the church to set the pace in reconciliation. Not lost on participants was the irony that they were meeting in Charlotte, recently identified in a Harvard University study of 40 cities as having the third highest per capita number of churches, but ranking 39th in interracial trust.  
    Practical considerations
    Those who work in racial reconciliation avoid the term “white privilege” in most public forums because it sets teeth on edge. But Darryl Aaron, pastor of First Baptist Church on Highlands Avenue in Winston-Salem articulated some things non-white persons often endure, simply because they are non-white.

    During a recent store visit his children, ages 10 and 12, were laughing and impatient for their parents to finish and they ran out of the store. Aaron told them very seriously that as black children they “can’t just run out of a store. Even if you have the receipt, you can’t just run out of a store.”

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Jonathan Redding, minister of youth at Peace Haven Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, chimes in on talk about racial reconciliation.


    He constantly fights the urge to restrict the “childhood” in his children because black children carry behavior stereotypes that are simply true of all children. But he cautions them not to laugh too loud, or jump on the bed.

    A “race burden” that black participants shared that whites seldom consider is that they are compelled to have receipts with them for any item they walk out of a store with — and they’d better be prepared to present them. If you have your receipt and are asked to present it, it’s a small matter; a minor insult. “If you don’t have it, we’ll read about you in the paper,” said Otto Gaither, associate pastor of Delabrook Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem.

    Young black children can’t find a doll at Christmas that looks like them, he said.

    Speaking in the video “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism,” Wayne Ward said racism is ego centered. People want to know, “why can’t everybody be just like me?”

    Speakers expressed frustration over a sense that resegregation is creeping into American life, citing reversal of diversity policies in the Charlotte and Wake County school systems. “We’ve dealt with this once, now we’re having to deal with it again,” they said.

    To those in privileged positions who wonder why minorities don’t just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” Javier Elizondo, a naturalized American born in Mexico who is now executive vice president and provost at Baptist University of the Americas, said by video that concept is a myth. “No one pulls themselves up by their bootstraps,” he said. It is true and biblical that people come alongside others to help them on their journeys.

    Nathan Parrish, pastor of Peace Haven Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, said racism is institutionalized in American life and, “We have to be honest, the church is an institution.”

    He asked how religious life reinforces or resists racism in American culture.

    He said people of color have told him, “I just can’t believe you don’t get” that social privilege is racialized in America.

    Parrish said he recognizes gender privilege more easily, knowing he has opportunity and ease of social egress that females do not have.

    “As a white, male Baptist pastor I must be in relationship with people who can help me see,” said Parrish, who very intentionally nurtures relationships with those of other races.

    “Sometimes I need to see some things that I may not be doing maliciously, but nevertheless are perpetrating things that are hurtful and harmful to people around me.”

    Parrish surmised that some church traditions are in place “precisely to keep us from being involved,” when we should “roll up our sleeves and work for justice outside the confines of our property lines.”

    “Maybe as a representative of the Lord I ought to have something to say on the Lord’s behalf” down at the board of education, Parrish said.

    Maria Handlin, executive director of the interfaith Mecklenburg Ministries, said if discussions such that days’ activity happens only once, “so what?” She links black and white pastors in a curriculum study called “Souls of White Folks” that helps to establish inter-racial relationships.

    “Once you build relationships you are transformed,” she said. 

    During a concluding panel discussion Greg Moss, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte, and president of the General Baptist State Convention, told participants they could no longer claim innocence in a racialized society at a minimum because of what they’d learned that day.

    “You’re not innocent anymore,” Moss said. “You were innocent when you hit the ditch, but you’re not any more.”
    7/26/2010 6:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments




Comments
Karl Valentic
Privilege? I lived in the projects or income-based rentals most of the time while growing up. My mother is an imigrant, but because she is white from Europe, she has to jump through hoops & pay to stay here. My father is first generation Croatian. His mother was native American. Her family had to have a French name to get a job. There is absolutely no 'plantation money' or 'white privilege' in my family, and no racism either. African Americans do not own hardship or racial victemization. There is absolutlely NO such thing as 'reverse discrimination'. Its discrimination and EVIL no matter who is the victem.
7/26/2010 9:46:51 PM

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