I find it helpful to continually rethink the meaning of anti-racism work given the profoundly dynamic nature of race and racism. As a socially constructed identity, there are generations of layers to unpack institutionally as well as come to terms with individually. It is not helpful to ignore social constructions, much like it is not helpful to ignore the development of toxic industries near your family home. Thus there is a clear benefit to you and your loved ones, in being aware of the realities and impacts of race and racism.
Race and racism are inherently grounded in our lived experiences, and as such, these experiences need to guide our justice work around race relations. It is important to understand the difference between training and education in this context. Anti-racism education is an important goal, but incomplete. Without disrespecting the idea of education, which again is critical and worthy in all our human endeavors, education is sometimes reduced to teaching a defined set of knowledge. Racism is dynamic, wrapped up in our daily lived experience, in life. As such, there is wholeness in anti-racism work when it includes the idea of training.
It is not possible to "graduate" from anti-racism work, just as it is not possible to "graduate" from say Unitarian Universalism or feminism. Anti-racism is not like learning the basic principles of geometry, or how to change the oil on your car. That is part of it, as we need to gain basic knowledge, but how we apply it, how we adapt with revelations of new facts, new experiences, it also important.
Through anti-racism work, we are training ourselves to be more mindful, loving, and justice-centered to the humanity around us. We are training ourselves to be people who listen to the experiences of others with respect and accountability. We are training ourselves to build or transform our social institutions to be based in a mission of equality, stewardship, and compassion. As we train ourselves, we become educators and organizers of others, as we gain experience we become mentors.
It makes me sad to hear anti-racism work dismissed. Clearly our institutions and culture are such that to address racism is to have to rethink our very sense of self in the world. We will not like what we find, maybe not within ourselves, but in the broader patterns of our society. It is easy, even popular to dismiss anti-racism, particularly among White people in my experience. I realize that some of this comes out of a negative experience in an anti-racism training, I have seen it repeatedly in my 10 years of this work. This behavior reinforces the segregation of White People from People of Color, and fulfills the intentions of the forefathers of our "modern" civilization – that White People shall inherit the place of superior to the rest of the people of this world.
Anti-racism training is something that I appreciate more and more Unitarian Universalists are able to access. It makes our church a more meaningful, welcoming and authentic place for myself as a mixed-race person, and I see it making a significant difference for People of Color. A friend told me recently that she is working on her Doctorate of Ministry on the topic of Pastoral Care for People of Color in Unitarian Universalism. It really made me think. Her work may well help empower others to take seriously the destructiveness of racism in our Unitarian Universalist congregations.
These are unrefined thoughts that percolated on a Sunday afternoon walk around the neighborhood with the baby.