One Voice at the Book Club
While I am creating this course on Whiteness, I intend to run a book group on Whiteness at my church. I am excited to hear how folks approach the books and what emerges as a result of this conversation. It will be a good place to test out provocative questions and questions that elicit honest reflection on Whiteness. The initial response is frightfully underwhelming. This is interesting and, could potentially tell me much about Whiteness.
I have selected several books and podcast series to focus on from January until June when the church takes the summer off. I smile at the assumptions of privilege that that tradition represents. In my community, initially the congregation all took off to “summer” at their cottages. But I digress.
I created content to be included in the monthly newsletter. I copied the same content on to a Facebook page that is used by church members to communicate about upcoming events and the like. Again, I received one email of inquiry. The church has a couple hundred members and friends who attend sporadically. A distinguishing feature of the church is social activism. This call for participation is not out of the ordinary.
Or is it?
I’ve asked for it to be announced before the service this coming Sunday. The minister agreed and also told me how Whiteness is on the agenda for the church this coming year. The Association that guides the church, according to her, acknowledges that that they have done some “things” for people of colour but that most of their congregations are primarily white and are unaware of the impact of their Whiteness on others. It’s encouraging to hear yet it feels like herding kittens – but why?
Last Sunday I asked a couple of people if they had read about the book club in the newsletter and inquired if they were interested in attending. The conversations went something like this:
Me: Did you see page 12 of the newsletter? I’m starting a book club on Whiteness.
Friend: On what?
Friend: On weirdness?
Me: No, that was Whiteness.
Friend: On what?
Friend: Oh (with arched eyebrows).
As the cosmos would have it, a huge storm paralyzed the city on the first meeting. There was only one person able to attend. But what a wonderful contribution she made. It was the first time she understood that there is no biological basis for race. There is no science that backs up the classification systems introduced into Western thinking a few centuries ago. These were, rather, ways of disguising power-over relations. The only science that there is taught in high schools now about how melanin has adapted to climates around the globe.
I am fascinated by this dance. I’ve been waiting to talk about knowing what Whiteness is to me, how it has shaped me, and how inter-racial relations have altered the course of my family ever since I researched facilitation techniques in cultural diversity in 2002. That is one really long wait.
To provide the training for a shift in awareness fills me with appreciation. I am grateful for the opportunity to graze in this field. Just one person to shift their thinking adds a voice to generate other conversations. It is the time to lift our awareness.
It helps to carve out time for reflection each day when you’re doing this inner work. If you seek accountability for your meditation practice, check out my online course: