Growing up I always thought of racial bias as something that happened in history. My journey of learning about the realities of both our history and our present has seen me wallowing in a lot of guilt.
There are two responses to this guilt—tears or denial. The tears make the situation about me—my sadness, my feeling of hopelessness, my need to be made to feel better. Denial shuts down everything. My defense mechanism statements of “I didn’t own slaves” or “I’m not a racist” put up an immediate barrier to any learning or conversation. While these might be the first and admittedly more comfortable responses, they do nothing to reflect nor bring about the kingdom of God. They keep us from being vessels of God’s grace for our neighbors.
What could happen if we shifted from guilt to grief? In our grief, we can use our indignation to dismantle unjust systems, to humbly accompany those who are harmed and together create change, and to open our hearts to continuously hearing what our siblings are saying.
This message is excerpted from “Facing history by listening with an open heart” by Lorie Garcia from the March 14, 2022, blog of the Women of the ELCA. Today we commemorate Erik, King of Sweden, martyr, 1160.
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