In a world where people of color are routinely marginalized and dehumanized, what we need right now is prayer.
In a world where privilege and power reign supreme over love and compassion to maintain the status-quo – what we need right now is to speak up.
In a world where children of color learn they are black before they can learn to read well – what we need right now is to educate ourselves.
In a world where elders are priced out of their communities to make way for the new and better – what we need right now is more equity and compassion.
In a world where one person can take another’s life while they remain free, both because of the color of their skin – what we need right now is real justice.
In a world where fear and hate are used to maintain division, distance, and disparities in health, employment, and ownership of businesses and homes – what we need right now is love.
In a world where the sit-in, sit-out, and sit-down, as well as the stand-up, stand-for, and stand-with, have been repeatedly seen fighting the same war – what we need is a genuine transformation at the core.
In a world where chaos is becoming common, violence replays our history, and little seems to change, what we need is to find God and to find God now. Not the gods in political offices, not the gods who lead organizations and institutions, not the god we put in our wallets or post on social media, BUT the GOD who created us all in the image and imagination of God, the GOD who saw everything created and said: “It was very good!” What we need right now is for those in positions of leadership and power who benefit from their privilege to begin to see themselves as good and good enough, instead of better than and above. Then maybe, just maybe, they will learn to see those they treat as the “OTHER” as equally lovable, equally worthy, equally valued, and above all as equally human, created in the image of God.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my brother and sister, after all.
The overt racism, COVID-19, and civil unrest during this moment in 2020 has vividly exposed that we have yet to enter the era of a post-racial America or ACPE. Racism is real. Racism damages relationships and people. Racism kills. One of the things I think ACPE needs right now is to recognize the fact that we indulged ourselves into thinking that we had become post-racial and racism no longer needed to receive critical attention in our organization.
From our standards, we took out the specific wording of race and racism as a topic that supervisors and students had to struggle with in regards to their formation; before we did this, they had to reflect on how race and racism influenced their attitudes and behaviors. By hiding the word race under the term “diversity,” we showed a total lack of understanding of the horrific history and deep roots of racism in our country. Reducing racism to one of the many topics within diversity, let folks ignore or dismiss the crippling effects of racism if they chose not confront to it.
We need to challenge ourselves as an organization to call racism out and spell it out in our training materials, supervisory relationships, and our workplaces. As we educate others, we stand at the forefront of helping folk confront issues of racism along with issues of gender, sexism, heteronormativity, sexual orientation, xenophobia, classism, etc. ACPE needs to join justice movements that seek to put an end to racism and build a just society.
My critical mind says, “I know what I need, but I do not know what others need.” Though I appreciate the inclusiveness of the question. Who is “we”? Since we cannot change the world in a day, I am going to assume the “we” are the members of ACPE. I would like for every Black person in ACPE to be afforded the opportunity to stand and speak before the White members of ACPE and voice their feelings in an authentic way and for the White members to just listen.
A loaded question to be sure. The most important thing that we can do is listen to one another. For many years, we have been sheltered in our own minds, shying away from the uncomfortableness of life. We lead a floatation of existence, only concerned with our bubble and not viewing the other spheres around us. To acknowledge the past and the ramifications of it, does not place blame, simply an accounting of facts. The truth of the pain that is coursing through the country cannot be heard because we are failing to listen.
1. Within the context of our organization with all of its components, how are the core interpersonal relationships with respect to race relations?
2. How often do we, in small group contexts, talk openly about our ’shadow’ side regarding our personal experiences as it relates to racial encounters within the organization, such as micro-aggressive behaviors?
3. Perhaps, what we need to do now is simply BE more than DO. This is not a passive position in light of all of what is going on in our society, but rather as pastoral caregivers, educators, and psychotherapist we are in the position to be of help to those whose mental world, within and without of the organization, is simply overwhelmed with anxiety.
4. Therefore, perhaps each sub-group within the organization can have its own sensitivity groups (small) sessions. These groups would be designed to help its members create safe places where open and hard conversations are able to be engaged upon.
5. This “need right now” is to offer places and spaces that are safe enough that members can feel relaxed enough to express their honest thoughts and emotions. Member MUST know that they are being listened too and heard and understood NOT because of the recent incidents (which is a lifelong experience for African Americans in this country long before arriving to these shores) but also because they are viewed and related to as fellow colleagues of intrinsic worth.
6 Lastly, we do not need to rush to a solution. While the current news cycle amplifies the deaths of Floyd, Taylor and Aubery, there are centuries of unnamed traumatic deaths that are hidden in plain view. We need to breathe, remember, grieve/lament, and continue to pray before we even attempt resolve. A simple and fast solution in this moment will not be sustainable.
To the ACPE audience:
As you remember, we celebrated ACPE 50th anniversary during the 2017 annual conference in Minneapolis under the theme “What we need is here.” Now we are reflecting the question “What do we need right now?” as our hearts are broken and angered following the recent incidents across the nation.
I am grateful to our REM members, leaders, and elders within our ACPE Community who embraced me, a stranger from India. As one of our elders in REM reminds us when we plan or gather for events, it is not a conference but it is an “invitational” and “REM is a movement.” What we need right now? We need:
to invite ourselves and be witness to the movement; have revolution of tenderness and in addition speaking with authority; stand up with people and families; embody the incarnational presence of love and compassion as well as part of the movement for moral and spiritual revolution; grow in the capacity for moral imagination; imagine with God, a circle of compassion; grow in the capacity for moral imagination; move ourselves closer to the marginalized so that margins themselves will be erased; be a witness to God who loves all; see through the eyes of God the other as myself; and see with tenderness of our hearts and minds.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw the problem in the world and said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” In another words, we are reminded by the African philosophy of ‘Ubuntu” which is translated as “I am because we are” and Asian Indian greeting “Namaste” translated as ‘I see the divine in you’ or ‘the divine in me recognizes the divine in you’. We need to participate in both ‘in the being and becoming’ in creating a transformative community.
To the question of what “We” ACPE might need – to do, to learn, pray for, support, be about in this time of “Uncovering across the nation” is to be in deep reflection and evaluation of our levels of honesty and openness to look at areas within our organization where we perhaps have participated or been complicit in systemic oppression and bias (both consciously and unconsciously);
To resolutely examine occasions when we may have preferred the “more appropriate route of NON-protest” and “insistence on quiet” when uncomfortable challenge, reactions or concerns were lifted. What we might definitely need is a commitment to taking deeper looks and lending our ears to even more careful listening if we have participated in overlooking oppressive acts that could have been handled differently; or confronting times when we decided not to challenge blatant disregard, and chose according to our comfort rather than just practices informed by facts; or when we perhaps failed to seek council or benefited from the status quo and privileged states of being.
Ultimately we need to actively plan for scrutiny and assessment of our policies, procedures and practices wherein the necessity for change is most suitable in order to promote more inclusion, collaboration, equality and the like.
Do you want to join the conversation? Comment here, or email your response to the question to Katherine Higgins.