“Doing the Work”
Decatur Presbyterian Church has accepted the PC(USA)’s invitation to be a Matthew 25 church. One of the visions of the Matthew 25 church initiative is to dismantle structural racism. The purpose of our Lenten Journey, “Doing the Work” is to dig deeper into the nuances of systemic racism, own our part in it, and to actively engage do the hard work of dismantling racist structures in ourselves; in order that we can more effectively work to dismantle racial systems around us and serve as allies for people of color. We are beginning this focused time of learning and reflection during the season of Lent, a season which is traditionally characterized by practices of reflection, repentance and sacrifice.
“Doing The Work” is based on some key assumptions about race, privilege, systemic systems, and being white in the world. It’s important to understand these assumptions at the start.
Systemic racism is all around us, and we are part of it. The vast majority of the time, those of us who are white fail to see it. It’s the water we’ve been swimming in all our lives.
Our tendency to draw distinctions between ourselves and “overt racism” only serves to further racist structures. By differentiating ourselves from the more egregious instances of racism and white supremacy (Charlottesville 2017, police brutality, white people saying outlandish things), we absolve ourselves from having to do any personal work because “real” racism is not what we say or do.
We have to do the work on ourselves first. There is no such thing as dismantling racism in our society as a whole if we are not willing to confront and address our own role in systemic racism first.
Action needs to be preceded by, or at least paralleled with, self-education. The second will help us be much more effective at the first.
White fragility is real – own it, work through it. Doing this work will trigger rationalizing/explaining/distancing/pushing back. We should anticipate this, acknowledge it when it happens, ask ourselves what specifically triggered it and why, and then press on with the work. Think of white fragility as a muscle we haven’t used in a while – it’s going to be sore initially. The goal is to exercise it and build up stamina for the work that needs to be done.
The work never ends, on ourselves or on our world.
“Doing The Work” is less a class and more a self-guided endeavor. While this initiative is geared toward a six-week period, there are plenty of resources to keep you going beyond that. This work involves ENGAGING a variety of resources and RESPONDING to those resources in a way that facilitates learning and growth.
ENGAGE (all resources listed below):
Over the course of six weeks:
– Read ONE book: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo OR So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo. (We recommend that everyone start with White Fragility. If you’ve already read White Fragility, we invite you to read So You Want to Talk About Race? If you’ve already read both, please choose from the supplemental list or reach out to one of the pastors for a recommendation. Consider ordering books from black-owned bookstores. You can discover online options like Brave and Kind Bookstore in Decatur, GA.)
– Watch ONE movie (see suggested list on Additional Resources page)
– Listen to all episodes of the podcast The 1619 Project
Once a week:
Read one article
Watch one short video (An email will be sent to you each week with a suggested article to read and video to watch. There is also a list of additional resources below you can engage as you desire or are able.)
Keep a journal of some sort to capture your thoughts/feelings/learnings.
Use these questions to shape your response to each of the resources:
1-3 short statements of “learnings” that you gained
Were there any parts where you felt your white fragility kick in (feeling defensive, distancing and/or pushing back)? What specifically, and what about it do you think triggered it?
1-2 things you can take from these materials as “action steps” to confront systemic racism in yourself and your world.
Accountability Partner – consider pairing with another person or weekly check-in conversations to process what you’ve read/watched/listened to, what you’ve learned about yourself, how you’ve grown, where you’ve struggled, etc. If you need help finding a partner, let one of the pastors know.
After Six Weeks
At the conclusion of the six weeks, we will convene as a group on Sunday, April 18th at 12 noon (virtually) to process our work and discuss next steps.
For Youth & College Students
Each week: Watch TWO videos sent out (Many of the videos will come from the series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man on Youtube led by former NFL player Emmanuel Acho)
During the 6 weeks: Watch ONE movie
Youth will also be put into a group message on Group Me so that they can receive reminders and will be encouraged to reflect on their own each week. Parents are encouraged to use their discretion on which of the suggested movies for youth would be most age appropriate for their child. Parents can also opt to receive the youth videos if they would like to facilitate conversation with their children.
For Children & their Parents
Children can also join Pastor Emily online on Wednesdays in Lent (Feb. 24-March 31) for a lunchtime book reading and discussion. We will gather on Zoom from 12:00-12:30 every Wednesday during Lent.
February 24 Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
March 3 I Have a Right to be a Child by Alain Serres
March 10 I Am Enough by Keturah A. Bobo
March 17 Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
March 24 A Church for All by Gayle E. Pitman
March 31 God’s BIG Plan by Elizabeth F. Caldwell & Theodore Hiebert
If you cannot join us on Wednesdays or would like to listen to more books, check out the links for each book to hear it read aloud online. You are also invited to choose any of the online read aloud books from the Black Lives Matter Instructional Library.
Each family will receive a box of crayons with a variety of skin tone colors. We invite children to create images of love, connection, and nurture using as many of these colors as possible. Perhaps spend time as a family looking at a variety of different images of Jesus and learning about where he was born and lived. Scan or take a picture of your child’s drawing and share with Pastor Emily.
See additional resources for families in our Additional Resources document.
Additional Resources: https://docs.google.com/document/d/117I2BKhKNEsiAmVPdBcL_WI42W4QntluJny60d0kJQA/edit