Our series this month is “How She is Doing the Work of Racial Reconciliation”. Susan recognizes that so often, as a white woman, she has left racial reconciliation to her sisters of color, not sure where she fit into the conversation and not asking where she fit either. For this series, Susan is going to be in conversation with white women about the role white women can and should play when it comes to racial reconciliation. Today, Susan is sharing her story of how and why she finally dove in.
Where to find what we discussed today
Be The Bridge
Be The Bridge – Public Facebook Group
My e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am both excited and nervous about introducing this series to you. This series is entitled: “How She is Doing the Work of Racial Reconciliation”. In our first episode in this series I am going to share my story of how and why I got involved in this work. My goal for this series is twofold: if you are not involved in this work already, I would ask you to have an open mind and open heart and open ears. I know some of the things I say or my guests say will be hard to hear. You might feel guilt, shame, confusion, disbelief and more. All of this is normal and I have been there. I still read or hear things and my first reaction is “No way!” Just stay with me. If you have questions, concerns, would like resources or just to talk about it…you can reach out to me at: email@example.com or dm me on FB or Instagram.
If you are already involved in this work, please don’t hesitate to reach out. This work is not meant to be done alone. You can e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or dm me on FB or Instagram.
If you are a woman of color, you probably know I am a white woman. My goal with this series is to talk with other white women on what is ours to do with this work. Too often we have relied on you, our sisters of color, to do this work for us. This is my humble attempt to speak up about racial reconciliation and why white women need to be involved. If you can/want to listen. Awesome! I’m not going to get it all right. You are probably going to be frustrated with how I say or tackle things. If you want to reach out about any and or all of it. You can also reach me at my e-mail address: email@example.com or dm me on FB or Insta. I am here to learn and listen.
I have been officially involved in racial reconciliation work since 2017, but have been mulling over it since June 17, 2015. That was the day that a white supremacist walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Also known as Mother Emanuel) had bible study with, prayed with and then murdered 9 people for no other reason than their skin was not white. There names are:
Rev. Clementa Pinckney
Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd
Ethel Lee Lance
Daniel L Simmons
As you probably know, I am from South Carolina. I have lived in Dallas, TX for more than a decade, but will always be a South Carolinian. And while South Carolina has a very troubling past, not to mention that 40% of all those enslaved in the U.S. entered the country through the port of Charleston, I did not fully understand that past until I was a grown woman. I will always love South Carolina, even with its horrific past. Though it is HARD, I am finding it better to recognize the past, come to terms with it, and try to move through it.
I grew up loving trips to Charleston and its surrounding islands, so much so that we spend a week on the coast with family every year. I know exactly where Mother Emanuel is located and have walked past it countless times in my life. So when this horrific evening happened in my beloved state and in a city I cherish I was shocked and horrified. It had happened in my own backyard. How could this happen? In 2015?
Then, on July 7, 2016, a little over a year later, another mass shooting. This time in my current city of Dallas, TX and not all that far from my house. This time it was an individual targeting members of law enforcement that were white. This man was angry over police shootings of black men. This shooting followed a peaceful protest against the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
I am unsure what the community in Charleston did to begin healing from the murders. In my research I did not find anything like what has been created in Dallas, so if you know of something…please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to learn more about it.
What happened in Dallas was that Rev. Richie Butler, minister at St. Paul UMC, created The Year of Unity project. I will go into Project Unity more in depth in our next episode, but suffice it to say this was how I got involved in the work of Racial Reconciliation.
I am grateful my own church has participated in Project Unity and one of the group dinners was at my church. I wasn’t sure what to expect walking into that dinner, but I knew my church was a safe space and I believed a higher power would be present. While this work isn’t always done in faith spaces, nor am I saying it should be, it made my move into the work a little (like a smidge) easier.
I think a good place to start, if you aren’t in Dallas and your area doesn’t have a “beginner racial reconciliation” anything is to look up Be The Bridge online. There is also both a public and private FB group you can join. The resources LaTasha Morrison and her team have put together are outstanding and regularly challenge my thinking and perception in a way that it needs to be challenged. The private FB group has a curriculum you must complete as well as a silent period after joining. You must complete the course work and the silent period before speaking in the group. I have learned so much just by reading and listening and it has been tremendously eye opening. Latasha also has a new book out with the same title, Be The Bridge, and I highly recommend it as a starting place.
Here is what I know. This work is not easy. I was taught a narrative and a history growing up that was incomplete at best. It was a narrative written by and for white people. Is that my fault, no. Is it my fault that the system was literally set up for me because of the color of my skin, no. Did my family own people? No. I have heard and in my younger years even used some of these excuses. However, what I can humbly recognize now is that it doesn’t mean that I haven’t still benefitted from it. I have absolutely benefitted from it. By the luck of the draw I was born a white woman in 1982 in the United States of America to a white solidly middle class family and there is a benefit to that. That can be hard to grapple with. It is something I must grapple with though in order for my child and, God willing, his children can continue moving the ball of reconciliation forward. I know racial reconciliation will not be complete by the time I die. It is too big and there are too many nuanced pieces to it. My best hope is that we can set up the next generation for success and that means recognizing a more complete history of our country’s past as well as acknowledging my own complicity.