A dif­fer­ent kind of re­cruit­ment let­ter: Help us pur­sue an­other way for­ward

The Calvert Recorder - - Community Forum - The Rev. Sarah Akes-Card­well, Lusby The Rev. Jen­nifer Wilder, Sun­der­land The writ­ers are the as­sis­tant rec­tor of Mid­dle­ham and St. Pe­ter’s Parish and pas­tor of Broad­view Church.

Dear white peo­ple who might be drawn to re­cruit­ment by the Ku Klux Klan:

We are two white pas­tors in Calvert who read the fliers cir­cu­lated to pro­mote the KKK. We write to of­fer an­other way. We as in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties and a na­tion are hurt­ing. We de­hu­man­ize one an­other and our­selves with name call­ing, anony­mous threats and acts of vi­o­lence. Fear and de­spair of­ten leave us un­able to see what else is go­ing on.

So, we write to share what we know is go­ing on: Peo­ple are al­ready com­ing to­gether to learn, dis­cuss and ex­plore white­ness.

Over the past three months, two groups have gath­ered, one in Prince Fred­er­ick and one in Lusby, to find ways of wrestling with white­ness that are al­ter­na­tives to fear and de­fen­sive­ness, and to loosen the grip of de­spair.

I, the Rev. Sarah, have been a part of the Lusby group. The 25 of us who par­tic­i­pated came with dif­fer­ent un­der­stand­ings of what “white priv­i­lege” means; some were com­fort­able, oth­ers skep­ti­cal and dis­trust­ful. Black and white, we gath­ered weekly for two hours.

At the end of four weeks, I was changed. I was changed by the re­la­tion­ships that be­gan to be formed, by sto­ries shared, and what I learned about my own life. We be­gan to no­tice how and where white­ness shows up in our lives. How does it ben­e­fit us? How does it limit us?

We came to see white priv­i­lege is one tool in­ten­tion­ally de­signed to keep us sep­a­rated through de­hu­man­iza­tion. It makes us think white­ness is the stan­dard for nor­mal. It lim­its both white and black peo­ple and con­stantly seeks to di­vide us.

Where real white power and black power lies is in the power to dis­man­tle this sys­tem.

This group is only a be­gin­ning, yet we have com­mit­ted to stay in the re­la­tion­ship, gather again, and keep learn­ing.

I, the Rev. Jenn, have been part of the Prince Fred­er­ick group, and our ses­sions con­tinue in De­cem­ber.

We have taken se­ri­ously the in­vi­ta­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity to do what, as white peo­ple, we’ve not had to do be­fore — in­ten­tion­ally tell the sto­ries of our past, present and fu­ture through the lens of race. Along­side oth­ers, I’ve done the hard work of bring­ing into con­scious­ness how I learned what be­ing white means and is, what be­ing black, brown or “im­mi­grant” means and is, how I’ve reaped un­earned ben­e­fit from my white­ness. I’ve been sad­dened by un­der­stand­ing how “white­ness” has kept me and oth­ers in line, and I dif­fer­en­ti­ate the mo­ments I’ve risked, or cho­sen not to risk, step­ping out of the white norm.

The emo­tions we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced — dis­gust, sad­ness, con­fu­sion, re­sent­ment, fear, self-loathing, guilt, anger, hope­less­ness, de­spair, hope — are all fine to ex­pe­ri­ence. It is what we do with these emo­tions that mat­ters. White peo­ple’s ten­sion with white­ness has led some to re­cruit to the KKK and oth­ers to re­spond not out of fear or de­fen­sive­ness, but out of cu­rios­ity, com­pas­sion and love. We hope you will come prac­tice, al­beit im­per­fectly, this other way with us.

We know this work can be sup­ported by and with our faith. Faith tra­di­tions give us prac­tices to humbly ad­mit we’ve been wrong, and in­spi­ra­tion to find hope when the world-as-we-knew-it is no more.

So, the in­vi­ta­tion is sim­ple, but not easy. Don’t join the KKK. But don’t ig­nore our white­ness and the angst it cre­ates.

Join com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­ted to un­der­stand­ing the tolls white priv­i­lege takes on white peo­ple and peo­ple of color.

Com­mit, not to be per­fect nor to know all, but to sol­i­dar­ity and anti-racism.

Join the next “Big Con­ver­sa­tion on Dis­man­tling Racism and Priv­i­lege” at Patux­ent High School on Jan. 13 at 2 p.m.

Or join the “White Priv­i­lege: Let’s Talk” se­ries at Dreamweaver Cater­ing and Cafe on Dec. 2, Jan. 27 and Feb. 24, all at 5 p.m.

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