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SUMMER 2020 BOOK STUDY – Week Five

Jul 10, 2020

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”  Arundati Roy

Growth Mindset: One of the “good guys [gals]”

-As those who regard themselves as “good people”, how did we get here and how can we be made new? That is the over-arching question we want to ask with our summer book study that is a part of the larger work of the Presbytery as we consider ways to continue to grow into our anti-racist stance and leadership.

Readings

  • The Person You Mean to Be – Chapter Four
  • For those who want to dive deeper: Emergent Strategy – interdependence and decentralization: who we are and how we share (pgs 83-102)

Scripture

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” –Matthew 10: 34-39

Watch

As a follow up to General Assembly and the issues I shared about the erasure of Black Women and Girls that happened, Justice Unbound did a conversation with two of the women on the task force, the Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt and the Rev. Kerri Allen. It is a conversation that should challenge you, and also bring insights into some of the larger challenges in our church. It is Episode #19 https://justiceunbound.org/justtalklive/ – or you can view below:

Reflection

Our chapter this week begins with the story of Kimberly Davis, an African American woman who would be routinely excluded and ignored in professional circles. As Dolly Chugh writes, she “went unseen….[i]t is possible that they did not even ‘see’ her – even though she was standing right in front of them – because they had a particular world view, and she, an African American female executive, did not fit in.” She also tells the story of Joe Lentine, a person who began the practice of “noticing” in his professional life, in how women, Black men and other groups were treated by his white male superiors. 

Did you notice that the way even the writer tells these stories at the beginning of this chapter? 

Kimberly Davis’ story, that of an African American woman gets about one page of writing, and is told from the victim point of view. And Joe Lentine, a white man, gets nearly six pages of a story, and he is presented through the lens of a hero and a learner. Even this chapter, and how the writer presents the opening stories in it, are not free from the problems we drown in of intersectionality and erasure when it comes to race and gender. 

This isn’t to say this isn’t a helpful chapter in this book. It is. But we have to even interrogate what we are reading and the problems with it. 

I am still considering the topics I discussed in Week Four, about what happened at our General Assembly. Dolly Chugh writes these words, which I think ring true for our life in the church, which is a highly problematic, oftentimes violent place for Black women and girls, “We can move from believer to builder when we see what is not visible and challenge it.” In our early chapters of this book, Dolly Chugh writes that we need to be builders, not believers when it comes to issues of bias. As I have been meditating upon this study this summer and her writings, and all that is going on in the life of our church and this world, it is clear to me that we say we want to be builders in the church-world, but we don’t really want to do that. Being a believer is far too easy. Being a builder is hard, because it means that you have to position yourself in the space of not just being an advocate, but an interrogator, a challenger, a disruptor. And you also have to present yourself for interrogation, challenge and personal disruption. We like decorum, “nice” people and “politeness” in the church-world. These are all facets of our love affairs with whiteness. It is what in my opinion, harmed and hurt our witness at the General Assembly a few weeks ago. 

The last section of this week’s chapter, “How to See More, Respectfully” is for me, the most powerful part of this chapter, and the part I confess I need to read, reread, and relearn all the time in my life as a white woman with a lot of power and a lot of unearned generational privilege. 

For most of us in this book study, I know your life is very similar to mine in these ways. I hope this week has been provocative and changing for you. Keep pushing yourself forward. Lean into the discomfort you might be feeling. Listen to and watch the voices I have offered to you this week. Hit repeat if necessary. That’s what the passage from Matthew’s Gospel is talking about as I read it and is the central faith question before us. What will you renounce and confess, even at the cost of something as close to you as family? As close to you as whiteness and white culture and the erasures it brings? 

This work brings a sword into your life. How do you feel about that? 

Listen

adrienne maree brown (author of our secondary reading and her sister, Autumn, host a podcast, How to Survive the End of the World. I invite you to listen to this episode of a conversation between two Black women on sheltering in place: https://www.endoftheworldshow.org/blog/2020/4/17/apocalypse-survival-skill-1-shelter-in-place 

Action

  1. Take the time to read the report on Disparities Experienced by Black Women and Girls that didn’t get addressed at the last General Assembly. It will be revised for the Assembly in two years and updated.
    • What does this convict you of in your local faith community? 
    • What “noticings” do you need to have? 
    • Are there things in this report that intersect with the life of your particular faith community and what you can be about? 
    • What help and conversation partners do you need? 
    • Especially as you listen to the end of the video interview with the Revs. DeTar Birt and Allen, how can you live into the “ask” at the end of it in the spirit of confession, repentance, and moving forward? 
    • Would you take it to your Session for conversation? 
  2. Who are you reading, listening to, watching, in relationship with? Do an inventory for the next week or do one of the past week. What does that say about the voices that are in your head and informing your worldview? A personal practice of mine is that I am trying very hard to not listen to or read white voices, and this week I shared this practice with you in our watching and our listening by centering the voices of Black women, voices that I believe you will find to be challenging, because it will cause you to interrogate who you are. Do not shy away from being pushed out of your comfort zone. God calls us to grow.

 

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