The Talk. We are all familiar with the many variations of the Talk with our kids, from THE Talk (sex) to Talks about alcohol, drugs, not following the crowd, and the list goes on. And I had all those Talks with my children. But there is one variation of the Talk I never had to give: the Talk warning them about how people will perceive and react to them based solely on the color of their skin.
Members of Glenn recently participated in an afternoon of conversation with members of Ben Hill UMC, a predominantly black congregation. Over the course of the afternoon, Byron Thomas, the senior pastor of Ben Hill, shared several readings from the book America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis. After each reading, we broke into small groups to discuss our response to what we had heard. The conversations we had were not always easy or comfortable, but they were all honest, based on each of our personal experiences.
In all of the small groups I participated in and in the discussions of the larger group, I heard member after member of Ben Hill refer to the Talk. The women spoke about having the Talk with their sons and the men remembered hearing the Talk from their parents. And when they mentioned the Talk they all meant the same thing - a discussion of how they would be perceived and treated throughout the course of their lives based solely on the color of their skin. As a parent, I cannot imagine how it would feel to deliver that same message to my children.
These conversations with Ben Hill grew, in part, out of questioning what Glenn’s response should be to racial injustice. Our afternoon spent with members of Ben Hill confirmed that the white church has to play a role in creating a world where the version of the Talk they heard growing up and give to their kids today is no longer necessary. To live out our belief that we are all children of God, the church needs to participate in the work needed to undo the effect of centuries of unequal treatment and laws. These discussions with Ben Hill may be just a small step towards that end, but they are a step.
If you are interested in being a part of ongoing conversations between members of Glenn and Ben Hill, please let me know. I particularly encourage men to consider participating. The folks from Ben Hill pointed out that most of the people from Glenn were women, a fact that we had not noticed. Ben Hill members explained that because white men tend to possess unquestioned privilege in our society, their support, understanding, and action are all vital to dismantling the institutions that keep systemic racism in place.
We hope you will join us next time in this authentic space driven by a desire for understanding and relationship. Listening to each other’s experiences is necessary to enable every person to live a life that is in no way dictated by the color of their skin.
If you are interested in further reading on the topic of racial justice, here are some books I have read, or am planning to read, as I have continued to think about the issue of white privilege and my obligation, as a Christian, to work towards racial justice.
"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. Du Bois
"White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity" by James W. Perkinson
"America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America" by Jim Wallis
"Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" by Martin Luther King Jr. (this book was referenced by Rev. Dr. Dwight Andrews when he preached at Glenn on MLK Sunday)
"Counting Descent" by Clint Smith
On my reading list:
"Racism Without Racists" by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (this book was referenced in a recent address by Dr. William Barber during his keynote address as a part of Candler's Bandy Preaching Conference)
If you have any questions about any of these books, or suggestions for books I should add to my reading list - or if you just want to talk - please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.