An Eye Opening Experience

privilegeAn Eye Opening Experience

(written by Corinne Baker, a member of Good Shepherd)

Two weeks ago, here at Good Shepherd, I participated in Today’s Dream: Tomorrow’s Reality, a workshop held by WELCA to help build anti-racist organizations [http://www.womenoftheelca.org/our-work-pages-4.php]. Racism, as defined in the workshop, is a system of advantage based on race.

The workshop discussion centers around a video where white men and women share and reflect on their personal experiences with white privilege. Most of us have probably participated in at least one workshop or read something about racism from the perspective of being aware of discriminatory actions or helping people who are discriminated against. This is a very different conversation. White privilege is a power structure that still feeds racism. Certainly less than in the past, but still today.

I don’t think of myself as racist, but I know I have prejudices, seemingly innate and hopefully internal-only responses in some situations, even though I don’t want to. And I know I benefit from the societal system by being white.

The workshop experience is one that has stuck with me. It’s a hard topic to think about let alone talk about. But a very important topic. In the back of my mind, I’ve been searching for a more concrete way to respond to events like the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner and Tamir Rice and the persistent, systemic problems they represent, as well as the 50th anniversaries of important civil rights milestones. I feel a certain calling to this—continuing to think through, talk about and take action in ways that can help alleviate racism from the perspective of white privilege.

The workshop is being held again at the DC WELCA annual convention [http://dwyercl2.wix.com/welca-metrodcsynod#!events/c507], Saturday, April 11 at the Village at Rockville (formerly the National Lutheran Home). I’m planning to go again and would love to carpool if others are interested.

Among many powerful examples of the importance of this conversation, this work, two have been forefront in my mind for a few weeks.

The first is from a recent PBS Independent Lens program called Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People[http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/through-a-lens-darkly/]. An African American woman, perhaps in her mid-30, is remembering when, as a 6 year old child, she realized she was black. With that realization, this: she didn’t want to be black.

The second is from the workshop video. A white woman recounted an experience that has stayed with her—at a conference where an African American presenter described waking every morning and remembering ‘I am black’. In sharing this experience she asks: How many of us ever think ‘I am white’?

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