Tell us about yourself and your journey with Nativity Lutheran Church.
I have been a member of Nativity for 7 years. I joined after retiring and moving to St Anthony from Superior, WI. Nativity gives me a chance to work on several social problems including hunger, environmental concerns, and racial equity. I organized a weekly opportunity for Nativity members to volunteer at the Little Kitchen food pantry and facilitated food drives for Little Kitchen and Salvation Army food pantries in NE Minneapolis. I helped lead the effort to stop the use of Styrofoam coffee cups at Nativity. I am now leading the Racial Equity and Justice Ministry (REJM) team to mobilize the community to work for racial and social justice after the murders of Philando Castile and now George Floyd.
Why do you feel the work of the Nativity Racial Equity & Justice Team is important? What is your vision for our congregation to make progress in this area?
I believe our faith calls us to call out injustice and work to change systems that are not working for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and people struggling with poverty. The Mission Statement for Racial Equity and Justice Ministry summarizes for me why the (REJM) is important: “Our mission is to listen, educate, and advocate to recognize and eliminate racism in institutions of society including our church, community, and country.”
My vision/hope for Nativity is for the Nativity leadership (pastors and council) to support and work with the Racial Equity and Justice Ministry team to help Nativity community become more aware and educated about white privilege and implicit bias. As awareness and knowledge increase, I would like to develop a relationship with an organization and/or church that is working on systemic change around racial equity.
Please share something that has educated, challenged or inspired you around this work (book, podcast, movie, local activism opportunity, etc.). Why did that resonate with you?
There is so much to share as I continue this journey of understanding white privilege and systemic racism. There are two books that truly “opened my eyes”:
WHITE FRAGILITY by Robin DiAngelo showed me the emotional structure in place in the United States that has protected whites and kept BIPOC from speaking up when racism and microaggressions are done by white people. It has given me a word/concept to understand how BIPOC have had to live in this white privilege society and ways to respond that are not hurtful to BIPOC.
CASTE by Isabel Wilkerson is a well-researched book that exposes the caste system in the United States that was formed before we became a country and has been upheld and refined to this day in our country. Understanding this caste system explains how we treat black people in the United States and how difficult it is for black people in this country to be part of the “white caste”.
There is a podcast series called Seeing White found at sceneonradio.org. The host John Biewen (who is white) and Dr Chenjerai Kumanyika (who is Black) challenged me to dig deep into racism in this country and the need for us to recognize how deep-seated racism is in this country. The caste system explained in the book Caste supported what Seeing White podcast discusses.