Lenten Book Discussion (Chapters 5 & 6): the Rev. Charlie deKay

March 28, 2017

On Wednesdays in Lent, diocesan leaders will guide an online book discussion of "Living into God's Dream: Dismantling Racism in America," a collection of essays edited by Dr. Catherine Meeks. Each week our guest facilitators will post a reflection on a chapter (or chapters) that can be found on the diocesan website and in the enews. On Wednesdays from 7 - 8 pm they will also host a Facebook conversation about the chapter and their reflection. All are invited to participate. Those who do not have Facebook accounts may still view the conversation, but will not be able to comment. See the full schedule of chapters and facilitators.

Our reflection for Chapters 5 and 6 comes from the Rev. Charlie deKay, rector at St. Matthew's, Evanston. The March 29 discussion will be facilitated by deKay, and  take place on Facebook from 7 - 8 pm. Join the conversation on Facebook.

Racism, as this slim, rich volume reminds us, is - for any progress we have made as a nation - with us today, ever diminishing and terrorizing the lives of people of color as it provides toxic benefits to white people. No one escapes it; it tyrannizes all. Racism, the "soup we're all swimming in" as Diane D'Souza calls it, hurts everyone. "Unlike the sea, a soup is created by human enterprise and its flavor and consistency are formed by the ingredients we add to it. . . . Swimming in a broth created collectively over countless generations, we steep in toxic privilege and oppressive diminishment - even if we fail to see or acknowledge it. It does not matter whether we live in a mixed race community or a homogenous one, we all soak in this soup." (p. 83)
Professor D'Souza and Don Mosley, a founder of Habitat for Humanity among his many accomplishments, offer insights into both making racism visible and ways that white people can both as allies and as independent actors work to change hearts and minds as we strive to dismantle racist systems. Mosley, a heroic figure in American battles to create the Beloved Community, provides us with an autobiographical witness. Quoting Tom Boone - "People act their way into new ways of thinking far more often than they think their way into new ways of acting" (p. 71) - Mosley recalls his adventures in social justice. As a fellow "spoiled white guy," Chapter 5 primarily invited me to reflect on my own re-awakening to the compelling call to address racism in my community. What brings you to this conversation? If you are white, was there a moment you can point to, which was transformative in your journey?
In D'Souza's chapter, "A White Lens on Dismantling Racism," I found greater riches to plumb and practices to emulate. Her confession to her deeper awakening, as she wrote the chapter, to the reality that she had not had meaningful conversations about racism within all-white contexts (pp. 85-87) is deeply telling of how difficult it can be for thoughtful white people to stay awake in the face of white privilege. It's fascinating to watch how, after advising whites to do their own work, D'Souza admittedly tells tales of racial healing "initiatives led by people of color, or Blacks and Whites together." She offers important, inspiring tales with transferable practices of racial healing by creating sacred "space where people can have conversations neither simple nor superficial about racism." "It can be uncomfortable," she writes, " to speak up about equity and diversity, advocating in White spaces for a different reality. It can be risky to be known as the person who always raises awkward questions. Yet this is work crucial to the spiritual well-being of all people; it is not work whites do on behalf of Afro Americans or Latinos or others."(p. 91) Her stories of creating space for racial healing come with the reminder that white people are not free to editorialize or challenge others' stories. Rather white participants are expected to honor "the intentional and heroic vulnerability" of the teller. Her chapter invites me first of all to reflect on how have I leverage my unique power within the system to fuel change? Isn't this a powerful question for all of us to ask ourselves? Our journey to wholeness and integrity (for all of us) may just depend on it.
May God show us the way, and strengthen us for our journey!


Category: Diocesan News