Report on Listening Circle on Racism

Mike Brown

Date:             08/05/2014

From:             Mike Brown

To:                  Eight Day Leadership Team

Subject:        Report –Eight DayListening Circle on Racism

An Eighth Day (8D) listening circle with approximately 30 people was held Sun, 07/27/2014 between 12:30 pm to 02:30 pm on the subject of racism.  The circle was held at Sarah’s Circle with Mike Brown as Circle Keeper (Facilitator) and Fred Taylor as Presence Keeper (prayer for circle and & keeping time).  The purpose of the circle was to hear personal insights in a sacred space to give rise to group creative action around issue of racism.

I have summarized the tone and content of the Circle into the following four major points for your consideration.   This points are supplemented with two appendices: Appendix A: Individual Contributors to the Listening Circle and Appendix B: Circle Agenda with Guidelines and Focus Issues & Questions

  1. The Circle affirmed the Racial Justice & Healing Mission Group efforts to bring more awareness of racism to the 8D community.  This is very important issue and not the only issue important to the community.  The circle especially appreciated hearing people’s stories regarding the culture/structures of racism in their personal lives (e.g. racial profiling, belonging to an inter-racial family, working in a predominately Afro-American workplace, 8D worship experiences, etc.).  There was a wide variety understandings and questions of inherent dominate “white” culture and structures.  Many noted the importance of becoming more aware and taking action of these structures within 8D as an opportunity to increase its spiritual vitality.
  1. The Circle noted the importance of diversity of having many missionsat 8D.  The Circle affirmed the importance of “Call” for each person at 8D in forming and joining mission groups.   The term of “anti-racist church” would not promote that importance.  Being “anti-racist” is a “way of being” on both a personal and community level.    Many people in the Circle noted that 8D puts much of its time and money into promoting the wellbeing of people of many colors and cultures.  This is especially true with its budget and with the focuses of most of its mission groups. 
  1. The Circle noted the importance of having a safe and authentic place to share their thoughts of racism.  The term “racist” and the needto be politically correct tend to block the deepening of that conversation.  Creating space where people can speak from the heart with a variety of perspectives strengthens 8D’s racial and cultural understandings and is an effective opposition to anything that would diminishes it.
  1. The circle did not come to any recommended actions but one or more members of the circle put forward the following actions for consideration:

-Black Afro-American worship service on a regular basis (maybe once per month)

-Form a committee with Friends of Jesus Church to draw upon their experiences especially on the forms of worship and leadership

-Take more anti-racist classes together to hear each other better and promote “racial sobriety”

-Doing and sharing racial autobiographies

-Teach/attend course of culture/structures at SLS to see more clearly that the cultural/structural systems

-Update membership and leadership structures considering inherent“white” dominate culture/structures in America.

 

Appendix A: Individual Contributors to the Listening Circle

Below are the Statements & Questions used to focus sharing:

1.  One way that the Eight Day Faith Community seeks to “truly find God, grow spiritually, and become more compassionate persons” is to be “open and affirming and value the differences among us.

Some Members would like to become an “Anti-Racist Church”   For some at 8D, Racism is a burning issue that needs to be addressed now rather than later.  The formation an “anti-racist church” may be a solution. 

3. How important to you is the issue of racism in the life of the 8D Faith Community?

4. Would a dominant community focus on the social issue of racism help or hinder our being faithful to God?

5. Does a focus on racism support or detract from 8D’s multicultural community?

6. How important a factor is the issue of racism for change at 8D?

7. How do you want to be heard further on this issue?

Below are summaries of Individual contributors as heard from the following four note takers:

Black = Gail Arnall’s Notes

Red = Marcia Harrington’s additions to Gail’s Notes.

Blue = Janae Detwiler’s additions by Mike Brown to Gail’s & Marcia’s Notes

Bold/Italics = Wendy’s additions  (Note: if the addition was to a blue or red section it comes out bold in that color)

Maria:  This is a critical issue & has been part of our lives for a long time.  It is scary sometimes because it has political and social implications. This seems like a good time to address the issue. I am interested to hear the impact that being an Anti-racist church would have on our worship services.

Steve M: Clearly important issue for me.  I would like our church to become an example for others.  The system is racist.  This discussion has been really powerful and joyful for me over the past two years;  as a member of an interracial family, it has brought me out of feeling guilty.  As a Christian, racism is a log in the eye.  It is a justice issue, a fundamental problem in the U.S. -needs to address systemic change.  Steve M: (2nd round) Can’t have harmony and racial reconciliation without justice.  Matt told me his generation doesn’t experience racism. Next day he told me he was pulled over by five cops – racial profiling.

Kate L:  I work for an organization that works on structural racism (advocacy) and implicit bias awareness (internal work).  As a white person, I know I have been treated differently. I am aware of the little thoughts in my head.As a white person,  will never understand what it means to be treated differently. I know it from my kids. I have a lack of understanding, I am sure,  We have to grow – as an individual and as a church. There is always internal and external work to do.  I am in a family dealing with racism.  Kate:  There is internal racism, but I feel sometimes accused of being white. We are a different group.  I am many things. The other parts of me are real, too. I hope there will be room for me to be me!

Marja H:  8th Day has to be a safe place for feelings.  My hope is that this is a safe place for sharing feelings. I don’t think we have to be painfully politically correct.  I was shocked that the girlfriend of the sports team owner shared what was clearly a personal telephone conversation.  I don’t think that kind of behavior is helpful.  MarjaH:(2nd Round)  I value the idea of working purposefully on the structures.  Structure must serve us, not the other way around.  Let’s keep an open mind.

Dottie B:  Racism is appalling.  It is a continual battle.  I do want to do something.  I want to learn more.  I think we can be open to learning and growing without our entire church taking on the theme of anti-racism.  There are a lot of dominant themes in 8D; all are urgent. Racism is one of the many dominant themes. It is not the dominant concern. Each of us has our own calling and that needs to be incorporated too.  Dottie:  (2nd round) I am impressed with everyone’s sincerity.  I am glad we are working on this issue both individually and structurally. It is a long process to change and needs a lot of inward/outward journey focus.

Carol N:  It is important to use the word racism not race.  Race doesn’t exist; racism is the problem. She used the analogy of her closet where she has some type of structure to arrange her things, but ….? She used the metaphor of a closet in which clothes come and go and get shifted around. It’s an organic, changing structure.

Meade:  I am personally aware of issues of racism and it is very important to me.  Always has been a part of our church.  Don’t know what anti-racist church would mean. Shouldn’t separate anti-racist from Christian. Christ calls us to this awareness.  All of us are a part of ministries that need Christ’s guidance.  What does it mean?  Take classes?  We may not all be called to an anti-racism mission group.  Meade: (2nd round)  I have underestimated the need for safe ground.  I assumed discussion about race was already happening.  Maybe it’s a generational thinking.  I don’t think we cannot all be involved in anti-racism. I endorse telling our stories - perhaps doing our racial autobiographies.

Gerald:  I don’t think about racism.  Read 1973 poem by Tom Bell – you can sit and holler that the world is not treating you right, or get up and do something about it.  It’s up to me and it’s up to you. We can blame others or make something good happen.  I want to be on a journey to a common good.  Look at our budget; most of our money goes to helping people of color! Deeds count.  8D is already and an antiracist church by its deeds and how it gives funds.  Gerald: (2ND round) I still think that it is up to us to respond to racism by doing something – not just criticizing others.  I’m not gonna ask someone to stop kicking me. What do I need to do? Young people are gonna kick back. They are angry. I did not want to be here because it has not accomplished much.

Gail C: I appreciate the awareness raising of the mission group. I want to learn more about racism and what I can do, but I also want to honor and protect the many missions we have, many of which are serving people of color.  8D was not founded on one mission group and people at 8D have always been made up of many mission groups.  Gail C: (2nd round)  It occurs to me that a good step in our process is for all of us to share how we are working on issues of race in our various missions.

Michael S:  I am concerned that if we call 8th Day an anti-racist church, then the world will think we’ve got it.  That would be a mistake.  We don’t have it.  I am happy that racism is being taken seriously.  When I first came to the church, racism was there, but I knew in my spirit that I could be a part of the chance.  Being a church that is not hypocritical sets a precedent. What saves this community is love. Be purposeful. Find out how I worship. Search for an outside African American pastor.  Michael S:  (2nd Round) I want to see if we can routinely have different styles of worship. maybe once a month we worship like blacks, Hispanics, etc. Action is much louder than words.

Connie:  As a 13 year old, I realized I was a white girl living a privileged life in 1969.  My parents had marched with MLK.  When I took Milagros’ class the issue became more alive for me.  It made me more self-aware.  I want to affirm what we are, not what were against.  Name it as something we are going for. We are not aware of how our structures are racist.Tell me when I’m not aware. It is my responsibility to find out. I have a lot of gratitude for individuals in this community who are promoting this awareness. Racism is insanity. I would like us to push for Racial Sobriety – a term Milagros uses.  Connie: (2nd round) I am not aware that our structures are racists.  I want to be told when I am behaving in a racist way.  It is my responsibility to ask and to listen.  I like the AA motto:  Awareness, Acceptance, Action.  I am not award how structures are racists.

David H:  30 years ago I came to understand a lot about the pain of racism.  Lately I have gotten more in touch with the pain of African Americans who I thought had made it. I am increasingly aware of my own racism (feeling superior).  My goal in 8th Day is that we will deal with structural racism in the structures of 8th Day and have a greater awareness of white Internalized Racial Superiority. Structural racism exists in our country and in some of our structures. We need to be aware of white superiority at 8D.  David H: (2nd round) This listening circle came up because some people felt that people would jump on us if we speak our minds. A number of people are feeling fearful. I do think the term anti-racism is getting in the way of conveying what we want.    I will offer an 8th Day a class on structures promoting racism in the fall.  We can encourage people to work on our own sense of superiority or oppression.  It seems that we all can be honest with one another. We can take concrete steps, offer a course on structural racism and encourage people to come to the  “Movies that Move Us.“

David D: Here to listen.

Victoria:  I was not sure what we were going to talk about.  I didn’t know we had racism here.  I have not felt treated differently. If I knew there was racism here, I’d go back to my race.

Tom B:  I came to speak about me and racism; did not know we were going to talk about the community.  I have seen astounding changes in my lifetime--mostly good.  But I still lament that people of color suffer.  I have been

working in my missions to address this problem.  Everyone in this community is actively engaged in trying to make the playing field more level.  There is a doctrine behind anti-racism which is good.  But some of the doctrine I don’t agree with.  It doesn’t seem to me to be important to become an anti-racist church.  It is important for all of us to work on being anti-racist.

 

Wendy D:  I want us to be an anti-racist church – no matter what we call it.  It means working on structural issues and on our internalized racism.  I want to work on both structural and personal racism.  Since I am part of 8th Day, I want us to make changes that would include all people of the world. I don’t think being “multicultural” and “anti-racist”are dichotomous. Wendy: (2nd Round) I want a committee of People of Color and Whites to work with our structures on specific suggestions for structural changes. Also want changes in Meetings structures and worship to be considered.

Ann:  I was attracted to this church because of the civil rights movement.  Gordon valued and affirmed differences.  8th Day has been open and affirming of differences. The ideal is held before us.  Also, each of us can be called of God – a great concept.  My call is to children and families who are underserved– outsiders.  I have been more aware of problems in systems. Whatever it’s names, my own ministry has been anti-racist.  I am thrilled we have a mission group called to make recommendations [I believe she said “called to racism”].  I love the variety of calls because call is out of our desire to follow Christ. Our calls are unified because we are part of Christ’s beloved family. Ann: (2nd round)  I commit to work on this in my inward journey and my outward mission.

Stephanie (Friends of Jesus):  Pleased to see 8th Day looking at this issue.  This is courageous, that we are seriously taking a look how racism may be blocking people from being closer to Christ.  No one is a racist. Stephanie: (2nd round) Systems or structures are really important.  I am still committed.  I am encouraged that I have heard that just because it always has been, it doesn’t mean it’s right.  At this point we need to take an inward journey. 3rd round - “This was a safe circle.”

Karen M:  C of S was created in a cultural structure of White racism so of course it will reflect these cultural norms and structure.  Unwittingly we are influenced.  How are we replicating racist structures and practices? Even in the structure of this listening circle – showing no emotion, a culturalized process.  This is not how people of color would discuss the issue.  Karen M:  (2nd Round) 8th Day has issues with racism and needs to deal with them.  I don’t think that all of 8th Day believes we have a problem.  8th Day needs to recognize it has issues with racism. Once we actually believe and internalize this - it will touch every group we deal with. When people hear racism, they hear black people.  It needs to touch every group we are dealing with.  Racism is all encompassing.

Orlando:  I have become aware of how difficult it is to know how Black Americans really feel as a result of racism.  It is a challenge to understand the structures which undergird racism. I want the church to be open and welcoming. All people should be welcomed and we should remind each other when we fail.

Visitor/Observer (Jenn Bricker):  Thanks for letting me witness this.  Is anti-racism a mission or a way of being?

Janae:  What drew me here was the openness and vulnerability of people in 8th Day, holding the vulnerability with attentiveness.  People will to share.  My being at 8th Day is the most valuable thing I have experienced.  The discussion around racism is part of that vulnerability is for all of us.  A strength of our community is that we can face this vulnerability. There is an audible movement among people  - so that it will be a central piece of who we are. Seems like there are a lot of people among us who are interested in this issue  So that suggests that this issue should be something for the entire community to work on. I am excited about the conversation continuing.

Marcia:  I stayed at C of S in 1968 when I heard Gordon preach an entire sermon on racism.  I had never been in a church where that was talked about.  I ended up being called to adult literacy.  Just about every structure in our culture has violence, bias and class oppression.  I have been in an all-black library environment and see all types of discrimination and violence - some coming out of classism.  People were kept down.  Though we struggle, we really have tried to listen and learn in this community.  Despite all my feelings of superiority, I try always to say:  tell me more about this – how are you feeling?  And, I am able to share my story as well. Having a safe place to share will move us to the common good.  We need to consider ourselves married to each other.

Harold (Friends of Jesus):  Wonderful to experience what I had hoped for many years.  I am feeling a movement.  I am really interested in us figuring out what God is calling us to do, and not exclude any brother or sister in the struggle.  Hope you continue to do this struggle.  I was invited into the discussion years ago and all I know is that I was on a journey to be a different person.  Don’t get hung up on the words anti-racism.  I don’t want to be excluded; it was put on me.  I don’t think anyone woke up and decided to be oppressive either. Harold 2nd Round I am not going to ask people to stop kicking me.*  [* I don’t believe this was Harold’s statement. Gerald said this and I added it to his 2nd statement.]

Mike B:  I was impressed by the inward-outward movement at C of S.  Inward is easy for me.  Outward is harder.  I came from Washington State and found a church that was alive and real.  I noticed, however, that the neighborhood was Spanish and black and they weren’t in the church.  Then I taught in a black school.  After a week or two the race issue disappeared.  Students became people with stories and backgrounds.  Racism is one form of oppression.  Another is classism.  Militarism may be even a greater danger. There is a danger of being over-focused on racism, over-engaged, occupying too much of our energy.

Fred:  My role is to pray for each of you as you spoke.  My spirit is asking:  where do we have the opportunity to move forward to a new society.  Think of the blessing of how open we are politically – this is a blessing that we can talk openly about these issues.  This is a very good starting point.

Summary

1.  The issue of racism is huge and important.

2.  Appreciate having a mission group to help us take the time to learn about racism and raise the issues we need to be considering as a community.  This does not mean that the entire church has to be in the mission group.  

3. Consensus that we don’t want to use the term Anti-Racist Church, but we want to be about learning individually and structurally how to promote a level playing field.

I don’t believe there is a consensus on point three (in the way I understand consensus).

4.  We acknowledge the power of call and the fact that 8th Day members have a variety of calls – many of which are directly focused on leveling the playing field.

5.  Not sure what becoming an Anti-Racist church would mean.  Look for different words – perhaps Racial Sobriety.  Want us to be an open, welcoming church for all people. I liked the question posed: “Is anti-racism a mission or a way of being?”

6.  Want 8th Day to remain a safe place for sharing our vulnerabilities.

I would add a question: do we have a problem or an opportunity?

7.   I would add that there seems to be a desire for ACTION on some structural issues.