Racial Justice Discussion Series—All Are Welcome
Each session will be facilitated by different volunteers from our congregation who took part in the White Privilege curriculum. We are not by any means experts on racial justice but are those individuals who would like to continue learning and sharing readings, books, audios, short videos, or movies on these important topics. This invitation is extended to everyone. Please join one or many of the conversations. Everyone is welcome. Come and share your thoughts. Registration with the church office (email@example.com) is required to receive a Zoom link.
We hold discussion sessions for any who are interested in exploring matters of racial justice and inequity. The discussions run for an hour and a half from 4:30 pm to 6 pm via Zoom. Our latest discussions have focused on Indigenous Peoples of Maine.
Exploring the UCC Curriculum on White Privilege
We completed a multi-week curriculum in 2021 and currently offer different discussion forums as they arise. We are leaving the content from our White Privilege curriculum on our website in the hopes that you may find some of the materials to be helpful and informative. We will continue to update this page as new learning opportunities arise.
Three books reviewed recently by Rich Stuart.
by Robin DeAngelo
White Fragility is a groundbreaking book that calls white people everywhere to see their whiteness for what it is, and to seize the opportunity to make things better now. The author shows that members of the white race (oppressor group), many of whom are well-intentioned and progressive, have benefited greatly from white privilege and the myth of white supremacy, which has promoted racial inequities for many centuries. DiAngelo provides valuable strategies for us to be a part of the solution in working toward eradicating these inequities. White fragility is the phenomenon by which white people become angry, defensive, or hostile when confronted with the idea that they are complicit in systemic racism. In White Fragility, author Robin DiAngelo examines its origins in the failure of white society to understand the structural nature of racism, explores the history of the existing racial hierarchy, and makes a powerful case for why it is incumbent upon white people to accept their individual and collective responsibility for white supremacy—and to do the difficult work of challenging it.
Maine's Visible Black History: The First Chronicle of Its People
by Harriet Price & Gerald Talbot
Authors Talbot and Price illustrate how black men and women have been an integral part of Maine culture and society since the beginning of the colonial era. Mainers of African descent have served in every American conflict for the King Phillip’s war to the present. The authors provide a grassroots account of African Americans’ individuals and black communities’ contributions to shaping the institutions and culture of Maine. This is a well-documented and detailed account of the exploits of many black Mainers, their many human interest stories, and examples of racism that they have faced ever since the Europeans settled in this region some 400 years ago. They present biographical sketches of Afro-American individuals and families in many of the towns and cities in Maine.
Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
by Neil Rolde
Neil Rolde presents a well-constructed and informative chronicle history of the First Nations People living in what is now the State of Maine from the beginning of European colonialism to the first decade of the 21st century. Rolde delves into the issues that have confronted Maine’s indigenous people in their conflictual dealings with White Maine people, its Maine State government, and also the colonial rule before Maine reached statehood in 1820. He focuses on both the overt racism and barbaric treatment of colonial White settlers and its colonial Government, and the systemic racism and white superiority carried on by White Mainers and its State Government after 1820, toward indigenous Nations in Maine. He is especially knowledgeable in the history of political and land disputes between the State of Maine and Indigenous people. For example, the author has a detailed discussion of the Maine Indian Land Claims settlement as he was a major broker supporting the Indigenous peoples’ claim in the settlement. Mr. Rolde acted throughout his professional and personal life as a friend and ally to the Native American Nations of Maine.
Three impactful reads, reviewed by Mimi Benedict, a member of the church’s Adult Education Formation Committee and an active participant in efforts to encourage Racial Justice conversations within our congregation.
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book, Between the World and Me, written as honest, often difficult essays to his son, was a life-changing read for me. I found myself challenged to look at and feel — if only on the most superficial level — what it might be like to grow up black in America. As I read this book, I experienced viscerally the difference between watching my white-skinned son catching frogs in a Vermont pond compared to Ta-Nehisi as a black child spending his young days in the streets of Baltimore, all the while his parents prayed for his body’s safety every single day. I found it a stunningly written, thought-provoking book.
My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
by Resmaa Menakem
Resmaa Menakem's introduced me to a new concept — White-Body Supremacy — in this powerful book, My Grandmother’s Hands. Though at times difficult material for me, I found Menakem's tone to be open, thoughtful, and caring. Though my life has been shaped by and benefited from being white, this author offers the perspective that we all — no matter our color — carry wounds of own plus those of our ancestors. The author explains how this pain can and, indeed, needs to be healed if we are to change our attitudes and the societal norms that devalue blackness, making white the "superior” model, and the detrimental consequences of this norm. I found Menakem's mediations and exercises both moving and grounding. I would welcome sharing in some of these practices with others.
by Robin DeAngelo
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism — I found this an important read, challenging me to better grasp the existence of white privilege in just about every institution and everything I take for granted in my life. Author Robin DiAngelo offers specific tools for individuals and groups to work toward racial equity by offering a view of how we have been conditioned by sociological forces and how we can change those messages, crucial decisions and actions that prolong the suffering of black people.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
Reviewed by Zella Walker, a member of the Adult Education Formation Committee and Co-Moderator of our congregation.
Similarly, for African American author Zora Neale Hurston and for Janie Crawford, the protagonist of Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, life was a quest for independence and self-revelation; for being known and loved for who they were. The setting of Hurston’s book is within early twentieth century rural black culture, however, it is not about traditional themes of race, rather its power resides in the reader’s recognition of the commonality and universality of the human experience, not limited by race or gender.
Published in 1937, criticism within the African American literary community was predominantly negative. Not all critics were negative, but some were offended, suggesting the heavy use of dialect and the levity infusing her storytelling undermined Hurston’s attempt to write serious fiction. Even with the largely positive reviews in the white press — "a flashing, gleaming riot of black people, with limitless sense of humor, and a wild, strange sadness” (Sheila Hibben, New York Herald Tribune) — the novel did not then find a wide audience.
Not until the 1970’s as Black and Women’s Studies Programs were being developed were Hurston’s works resurrected. I read this book in the mid-seventies after it was promoted by Alice Walker in a Ms. Magazine essay, "Looking for Zora”. Walker, author of The Color Purple, suggested the earlier rejection of Hurston’s writings was like "throwing away a genius”.
The uncanny personal rapport I felt with Janie in her search for self-identity was revelatory, underscoring for me a deep level of connection unrelated to race, culture, or gender. Despite the diversity in context, at our core Janie, Zora, and I shared fundamental similarities. We each had a unique story, but with common longings, aspirations, and fears.
Janie Crawford’s story is of one black woman’s endurance of three turbulent relationships, all the while determined to live her life on her own terms. At times she tries to conform to expectations; first, of her beloved grandmother, Nanny, and then, of her husbands. She holds herself in self-suppression, but the dream of being cherished as a partner, of finding her own voice, of discovering mutual love and passion is never extinguished.
Hurston’s writing is often referred to as poetic or lyrical. The phrasing is melodic — sometimes joyful, sometimes soulful; the insights profound.
"Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches.” (p.20)
"He could be a bee to a blossom — a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung around him. He was a glance from God.” (p.161)
"Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.” (p.284)
Podcasts from On Being with Krista Tippett
Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence with Resmaa Menakem
"The best laws and diversity training have not gotten us anywhere near where we want to go. Therapist and trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem is working with old wisdom and very new science about our bodies and nervous systems, and all we condense into the word "race.” Host Krista Tippett sat down with him in Minneapolis, where they both live and work, before the pandemic lockdown began. In this heartbreaking moment, after the killing of George Floyd and the history it carries, Resmaa Menakem’s practices offer us the beginning to change at a cellular level.
In Conversation with Robin DiAngelo and Resmaa Menakem
"The show released with Minneapolis-based trauma specialist Resmaa Menakem in the weeks after George Floyd’s killing has become one of our most popular episodes, and has touched listeners and galvanized personal searching. So we said yes when Resmaa proposed that he join On Being again, this time together with Robin DiAngelo, the author of White Fragility. Hearing the two of them together is electric — the deepest of dives into the calling of our lifetimes.”
New York Times: Nice White Parents
A five-part series about building a better school system, and what gets in the way. Brought to you by Serial, a New York Times company.
Nice White Parents