by Peggy Hahn
I came of age as a white child in the era of Jim Crow segregation laws that officially enforced racial segregation until I was in grade school and have been unofficially shaping society ever since. Growing up in New Orleans, I saw separate drinking fountains, separate beaches for swimming parties, and signs on the streetcars. You might say I have been reflecting on racism, from a position of privilege, my whole life.
Our country has undeniably and tragically created a caste system that has separated human beings from being fully human. This is not the will of God.
Last month I counted the number of books I have read about abuse of power that runs through every leadership book I own. The theology books I have read on liberation and the freedom of a Christian offer a Christian perspective. The relational books I have read on culture, diversity, or ethnicity offer a human-rights perspective. There are so many, I won’t itemize the types of books that have been educating me for years. Over half of these have been written by white people.
I was shocked to discover that these books accounted for 90 percent of my library.
Clearly, I am well-informed about systems of oppression, racism, and the role of the church.
Obviously reading is not enough. Following Jesus always calls me to action.
This month, as I pray daily for my Black brothers and sisters, I am asking our LEAD staff to re-shape our core values around anti-racism so we can be more fully aligned with Jesus, as an organization. I am inviting you to do the same.
This is not a liberal agenda. It is an awakening of ordinary white people who have been so busy with our own lives that we have ignored our neighbor. This is loving our neighbor as ourselves.
In all the uncertainty around us, as we think about the church moving forward, what will your church be known for? It starts with us, as leaders, doing our own work.
If you want to do this in community and need a small group to overcome your own fears, join me in a Sacred Time Group. Or get a mentor. Build your own group. Read, but don’t use your privilege to stop there.
I am not saying this to ignore the pain and suffering of all ethnicities. It is exactly the opposite.
So, as you pray, pray for the Black people in this country, who have been and are oppressed by systems built to maintain the caste system white people benefit from, mostly without realizing it.
(One book recommendation today, that I can’t resist sharing: Caste, The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.)