A couple weeks ago, I attended the Solidarity March in downtown Madison sponsored by the African American Council of Churches. I haven’t been to many marches like this, but my husband Bjorn and I talked a lot about it and decided we should go. You see, we have been on a journey together. A journey into talking about racism. And it is uncomfortable and hard and some days we would rather not talk about it, but we have to because we believe in God’s love for all; because we want our children to grow up in a diverse, caring world; because we want justice and opportunities for all.
A couple years ago Bjorn and I both took Witnessing Whiteness at Good Shepherd. We had both had other diversity training classes and workshops, but Witnessing Whiteness was the first class that really asked us to examine our own background, history and experiences as a way to understand race. After that, I had the opportunity to co-lead a Witnessing Whiteness class with another Good Shepherd member and facilitating the conversation helped me grow in my comfort in talking about race and in my awareness of the racist systems around us. And last year, I read How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and White Fragility by Robin Di’Angelo, and I started asking more questions like why a store only sold dolls with white skin or why white criminals photos in news stories were of them smiling, but people of color were shown in mug shots.
As a pastor, as a Christian, I have always believed that all people are created in God’s image and loved by God. But my understanding of God’s BIG love and grace can’t hide the real evidence of racial injustice around us. My Witnessing Whiteness class taught me that as a white person, I am going to say the wrong thing sometimes. But more important than that is saying something and continuing to grow in my awareness and to listen to the real lived experience of other children of God who are hurting.
And so, on a Sunday evening with masks on, signs in hand, and a small group of Good Shepherd members by my side, we walked in solidarity with our Black siblings in Christ. The march was specifically for people of faith and there were signs declaring that Black Lives Matter to God. Then we heard the voices of five Black women from our community speak to their experiences. One of the speakers, Vanessa McDowell, CEO of the YWCA Madison, gave a list of things folks can do to help – including educating oneself, supporting Black businesses in our community, and giving time and money to non-profits that specifically help women of color.
I wanted to share this with you because a lot of people are asking what to do right now and how to help. And our church has been trying to answer that question for years. This summer there is an opportunity to talk more. We will be hosting a class called Difficult Conversations that is focused on how to talk about race as people of faith. We are hoping to keep growing as a congregation, especially as we continue to work to love our neighbors.
Pastor Dara Schuller-Hanson