Recently, I attended my Diocesan Convention where Bishop Eugene Sutton (Maryland) gave the keynote address. The topic was how we, as a community of disciples, can live into a life of reconciliation--especially concerning racial relations. I think this topic is especially important to those of us leading school communities and working with young people. Bishop Sutton offered four thoughts on the topic:
- Commit ourselves to civil conversations. Unfortunately, this is missing from lots of the public dialogue that our students see on television. "Name calling" and demonizing the other side doesn't help. Rather, what are we doing to seek to understand as opposed to be understood? St. Francis instructs us to be instruments of peace.
- Criticism is healthy and patriotic. There is nothing "unpatriotic" about looking at some hard facts of our history together. Rather than avoiding it, where are some places where we as a country have failed to live up to the baptismal covenant? Being critical on this topic isn't "anti-American." On the contrary, it is the most patriotic thing we, as citizens, can do. Are we prepared to "repent and return to the Lord?"
- Call out racist language. How many times have we as teachers simply looked the other way when confronted with poor student behavior because it was the easier thing to do. When we do that (and I am guilty, too), we are supporting racist behavior and creating an environment where racism can take root and spread. We have a responsibility and a duty to call out racist language and behavior no matter how difficult it may be to open up the conversation.
- What does "repaying the debt" look like? This one is a challenge--but how do we as a society respond to the debt of generations of systemic racism? Some of us and our ancestors have benefited from the systemic racism that plays a role in our country's history. While there is no easy answer to this, how do we now repay that debt? It seems that this topic should be addressed and different organizations are wrestling with how to best have this difficult conversation.
This is a difficult topic, but one that is so important for those of us called to live a life of reconciliation. What does racial reconciliation look like in your community? How do we best help create leaders to do this important work?