This is the second Installment of a special series
By The Reverend Garfield Wu
“God said he was going to trouble the water.” I did not anticipate such a substantial impact on my life and my ministry in the beginning when the Anti-Racism Working Group was formed. After a few sessions with our group members, I continue to reflect on anti-racism as a discourse and practice to bring critical conversations to our communities in our diocese.
We do not live in a post-racial context; it is a myth and illusion to hold to this view. I feel very grateful to be part of this lovely multicultural, learning and research group organized by Bishop Susan and Canon Christyn. Each of us is already seeing growing awareness of systemic racism and awakening to their part in that system. While challenging and painful at times, our dialogue and our differences are wrapped in a faithful commitment to humility, vulnerability, and transformation — for us, and for the diocese.
Race and anti-racism communication and education are significant tasks and responsibilities as we seek to transform the structures of our faith community and our society. While communication and education alone are not enough to address the dynamism of racism and social oppressions, I believe in the power of communication and education and ideas to ignite community transformation, especially from Christian community. For example, skin colour is a critical aspect of any discussion on race, but together, the group has explored and owned the concept that it is not the only measure or reading of race identity. Unfortunately, those who highlight skin colour’s saliency are often heard as simply seeing race as just about skin colour or rejecting the intersectionality of our multiple identities.
The storytelling that led us into animated discussions about the limitations of referencing skin colour to define one another pointed us to the need to craft expectations about how to be with one another in a way that acknowledges the turbulence of the waters in which we tread while also ensuring that we are secured to one another in such a way that we can all stay upright in the currents and eddies.
From a deeply held sense of needed change and only a vague idea of how to take action, the Anti-racism Working Group has created a living document that captures our shared expectations of the process to our next steps: communication and education. It is intended to support each other in our risk-taking adventure, respect the privacy of each individual’s identity, and life experience, norms have been established.
We have been called to be present to one another in a manner that upholds the dignity and worth of each of us, made in the image of God. This group strives to talk about people as individuals with unique identities and avoid language that suggests that people are merely their race or skin colour.
Everyone in this group comes with good intentions but we recognize that our words and actions can unintentionally cause harm, and we commit to moving towards forgiveness and reconciliation when that happens. We agree to give gracious immediate, or appropriately timed feedback that focuses on calling each other in (not out) when someone says something disturbing, hurtful or offensive. Our focus in feedback will be calling one another into the community, not calling out to shame or chastise.
Meanwhile, we recognize that English is not the most comfortable language for all of us, so we agree to take care of what each person is saying and be patient when we are not quick to speak or struggle to articulate our thoughts and feelings. Everyone comes willing to take risks and be honest about our thoughts, feelings, and opinions, not just saying what others want to hear.
We need to honour and respect each other’s truth as their own lived experience while knowing that it is only part of the truth. Talking about racism, race, and inequity is often uncomfortable. Identifying and unpacking our identity groups and the different levels of privilege associated with them is even more painful. And so, our group agrees to allow ourselves to experience some discomfort, and we will resist the urge to change the topic to ease our discomfort.
You can see that there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to the complex problems posed by racism and inequity. This group commits to an ongoing dialogue and growth journey together. We trust that our authentic journey will bear fruit for a Spirit-filled plan for diocesan transformation around diversity, inclusion, and equity.