Exploring the UCC Curriculum on White Privilege
We have the great fortune that our denomination is committed to raising awareness and promoting racial justice from a faith perspective. Mimi Benedict and Ute Molitor will offer a six-part program on White Privilege starting in late September. This program will use excellent video and written materials produced by black and white leaders of our denomination. Our goal is to raise awareness about what White Privilege is, how we experience it in our own lives (including church), how it affects people of color, and what is needed to work toward a more just future.
Participants will be provided a discussion guide and additional resources. The course will be offered twice a month on Wednesdays from 4:30-6:00 pm on 9/23, 10/7, 10/21, 11/4, 11/18, 12/2. Participants will be asked to commit to as many sessions as possible to honor the sharing within the group. Our process will include writing our own spiritual autobiography through the lens of race. The deadline to sign-up for this course is September 4th. Please contact Becky in the office at 236-4821 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
All participants will be contacted with further information prior to the first session. If you cannot participate but would still like to review the materials, please feel free to go directly to the resources provided on this page. The first meeting will be held on Zoom. Subsequent meetings may as well. Logistics will be determined in consultation with participants, evolving church policy and CDC precautions related to COVID-19 in place at that time.
Here is our Session Plan, including relevant materials for review. Participants will receive guidance on which are primary and which optional.
National UCC Curriculum
You can find a link to the Curriculum and a Facilitator’s Guide. Please note that we are drawing from several options for this six-week program.
Whiteness as a Norm, Part II
(This is an extra optional additional session focused on spiritual aspects of this topic in relation to Christian faith and the life of the church.) Participants will be advised on readings.
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.
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.
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.
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