Debriefing on the Charlottesville and Dealing with Racism

Debriefing on the Charlottesville and Dealing with Racism August 18, 2017

I am happy to say that my church, ADF, has put out an official statement on the events that took place this last weekend in Charlottesville Virginia.

I am relieved, and I was blessed to see how many ADF members and clergy stood together and demanded that happen.   Seeing the comments on my post, as well as so many other blog posts, facebook comments, and emails about this issue gave me hope that as a religion we are ready to begin to deal with, and dismantle our own internalized racism. It’s a long battle, one fought internally and externally to retrain ourselves to understand what the Other is feeling and needing.

The ADF Virtues and Racism

The battle against racism is true to our core values of hospitality and sacred reciprocity. Most of our membership is white. Not all, and I have had many conversations with other clergy about how best to support our non-white members and how we might best be welcoming for People of Color who would want to share in our community and our fire. I am still learning.

A hand holding a lit lighter
Holding the Flame of Hope

Many members have told me that we are welcoming, that anyone who wants to come to our fire is welcome, but reality is more difficult than that. To be truly welcoming we need to examine how we are unwelcoming. There are a lot of great resources these days for learning to understand white privilege and one great response to the tragedy of Charlottesville is to educate yourself. I recommend the website Everyday Feminism as a great resource for gentle, humorous videos and blog posts that take the sting out of seeing your own bias.

To be truly hospitable, one must be a good host. To do that for people who have had a different lived experience than you, you must be able to listen to their needs. Christians often tout their own ethical rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” I have often thought that rule was somewhat lacking and causes a great deal of suffering even within pagan communities where I often hear it repeated as a baseline for human interaction.

The Golden Rule is flawed.

It does not take into account that people that people are different. It does not take into account diversity. It fails to account for the fact that people other than you have different needs than you. I see this all the time in my local grove’s Feasts. After every high day we have a potluck feast. Everyone brings food to share. The thing is, almost everyone there has some sort of food allergy or sensitivity. One woman can’t eat onions, some can’t eat gluten, I can’t eat soy. We have a vegan and a number of vegetarians as well as those who eat a paleo diet of meat and vegetables.

If we applied “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” we would all end up with bellyaches, barfing, and asthma.

We cannot do unto others as we need. We must do unto others as they need. And that, Dear Readers, is called good hospitality.   Good hospitality is about attempting to understand the Other, the Outsider, and then providing what they need as best you can. It is about listening and empathy, not about assuming you know the right answer. It is about building relationship.

Be a Good Host

There’s a lot that can be unpacked from that simple phrase. If we think of ourselves as sovereign in our own right, each a unique expression of the life of this Earth and the universe as a whole, then each moment that we exist is a chance to be a good host. Every time we interact we have a chance to be both a good host and a good guest. In our daily lives we can express this in every moment. In the case of racist behavior, how can we make our own lives more welcoming for people of color? I believe that we can realize that racism is most often a subtle thing, something we don’t always see or notice, so we can make sure to listen openly. Sometimes we may feel attacked and want to defend ourselves from that listening. Saying things like, “I’m not that kind of White person!” or trying to explain away their experiences “I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that!” are not helpful responses.

We need to practice listening to those who have not been listened to. Black people, Hispanic people, poor people, LGBTQAI people, women, the disabled.

We need to practice making good spaces to listen. That can me defending a space, explicitly saying here’s a space for you, even if it’s not appreciated, even if we don’t like the results. That’s what hospitality dictates.   It’s not about being liked, it’s about being in right relationship.

That Moment When it’s All Real (In the Good Way)

As I was finishing this blog post and wondering if I was being pedantic and lame I was looking at Facebook and saw that a white woman had posted in my neighborhood association about listening to those POC that live in our neighborhood.

It’s a beautiful old neighborhood, with many fancy houses and many less fancy houses. Race relations are on the front line here. I’ve seen people go at it, arguing. I’ve heard stories from my neighbors. Race is real, right here. There were people who stated that such a thread as what she posted would be taken down by the moderators of the FB group. It wasn’t taken down. Instead, dialog started, and people are sharing their stories and their fears. We are thinking of starting a group hosted at the community center in our neighborhood. I cried with the realness and beauty of it. There it was, in literal Black and White, people reaching out in reciprocity to build better relationships. I hope we all can make that a higher priority in our lives. I hope each of you, Dear Readers, can do that.

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