Workshop identifies dynamics of racism, supremacy
Gen Heywood of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, Walter Kendricks, pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, and John Smith, a former state senator, led an interactive workshop at the recent Legislative Conference on "Faithfully Facing Racism: Confronting White Supremacy."
Gen said it's essential to challenge racism and white supremacy, name the behaviors, say "Stop," and not wait for perfection.
John, who grew up in a white supremacist family in Stevens County, shares about his experiences. He believes from his study of scripture and faith that people of faith have an obligation to speak out, both to defend the rights of the vulnerable and to restore those transgressing. However, he called for acting with care to avoid making "an oppressor feel oppressed because that spreads white supremacy. The goal is to restore people. That's how to overcome racism."
Walter invited people to share their experiences of white supremacy and what it was like to be in that moment. He listed three examples: 1) being patronizing; 2) saying, "I'm not racist. I'm color blind," and 3) ignoring inequities of the criminal justice system.
"I used to deal with racism by avoiding places where I was not welcome," said Walter, who now seeks to educate people.
Gen suggested an approach that uses two hands: holding a hand out to say "stop" while reaching out with the other hand to say, "I'll meet you in our common humanity." She said, "Stop" may include a spectrum of responses to hearing a racist comment—from calling it out to calling the police or taking a video.
"When a person says they don't see color, we can point out they do and offer the second hand offering to meet in our common humanity, which means recognizing we all can turn to a better way. Not to see someone's color is to reject that person's experiences and humanity," Gen said.
NAACP Spokane president Kurtis Robinson noted: "Race is a construct. It's not real."
John was taught as part of white supremacy to seek a black or Hispanic friend, so he could say, "I'm not racist. I have a black friend." Now he knows that's what racists say.
"It's important to see there are differences and not minimize the differences, but see who people are," he said. "We need to create empathy. Part of racism is projecting fears on others.
"If a woman is a victim of sexual assault, it's not because all men are bad. Black people have experienced harm from some white people, but not all white people are bad," said John.
Kurtis invited people to join efforts by attending NAACP third-Monday meetings, the Spokane Coalition Against Racism or a "Why Race Matters" workshop.
"Come and see how you can engage with the community and understand how internalized racism is," he said.
For information, call 408-593-9556, 724-0301 or 209-2425.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March, 2020