Jennifer Garrison, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett, and I had a conversation after the service this past Sunday, and then she followed up sharing her reflections. These are the kinds of interior journeys that become our work in a welcoming community. Jennifer writes about the impact that words like “white supremacy” have on her:
When I think of “white supremacy,” I think of klansmen in their white robes terrorizing the South. I think of neo-nazis raising their arms, saluting a person and ideals that shake me at the core of my being. The voices of those in my family (past and present) who engage in racial rhetoric are not as extreme as those examples, but the idea of “white people” being somehow better in the way we live versus “others” is equally as stunning and disturbing to me. I still hear their voices whenever I am in social settings. I have no need to judge: the jury is already in my head.
To find the struggle created by the white supremacy system in one’s own soul is disturbing. Jennifer describes that struggle and some of the ways it was delivered to her:
I wonder how many people have this judge and jury in their head, from people in their life who do not share the open-mindedness that Unitarian Universalists work toward every day. I try so hard to differentiate my voice and soul from those voices of loved ones who have been so hateful and misinformed about people outside our “white” circle. I share half my DNA with a man who talks down my neighbor, who is Asian, because he owns a landscaping business and kindly cuts my grass for free. “He’s joined the Mexicans, eh?” Wow, you can’t get any closer to direct racism than that. Dad moved out of Atlanta because of the traffic, and the Mexicans. I call it like I see it. The most painful part if this is that I still love him. I have the same quirky sense of humor as he does, but I don’t add race into it.
Many of us have and continue to struggle with the very words that we use around these issues, words needed to communicate but often which come with a double edged-sword. Jennifer shares a powerful moment of realization that she had:
I have had additional thoughts about what “white privilege” means in contrast to “affluence.” I have never related to the idea of “white privilege” because I did not think that I had experienced that myself. I have never known money. After church, I started thinking that the “privilege” I was referring to is actually “affluence.” Affluence by definition has a lot to do with economic power, flexibility and influence. This can be seen in all races, as well as the lack of it. That’s closer to the idea I had in my head with “white privilege.” I realize now that the “white privilege” I do enjoy is that to look at me, most people would see me as friendly, someone not to be afraid of. I have seen folks afraid of the “opposite” race. I have also seen people of all colors come together for the greater good. Let’s keep the conversation going, so that one day we will all get there.
Doing our own work, on our individual selves as well as a community is very much a part of what it means to welcome it all into our community.