How do you work toward racial reconciliation when you work in the church or other Christian organization? What practices help you to engage others in healthy ways? What stories do you share and how? Below are two articles on this theme that I’ve written as guest posts for other sites, and after that a trailer for a new resource on Healing the Healers.
9 Avenues Toward Racial Reconciliation
by April Yamasaki, a guest post for The Redbud Writers Guild
When I was invited to join an online panel conversation about race, mutuality, and community, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All five panelists and our moderator were at least loosely part of the same Anabaptist blogging community, so we shared some basic understandings about Christian discipleship as following Jesus, the church as a gathered community, and a concern for living out God’s peace and justice in our world today. We were three men and three women; two African-American, one of Chinese descent, and three who looked white but I didn’t know more of their background than that; five living in the U.S. and me the lone Canadian. What exactly would we talk about? And could we talk about race as well as practice healthy engagement with one another?
As I reflect on this experience, I’m grateful for our conversation and for these nine healthy practices that helped us engage one another.
When we listen, it might not look like we’re doing much, but listening is active engagement. I sensed that we were trying to listen well to one another both in our planning and on the panel itself.
- Being deliberate
As the panel was being formed, care was taken so that the dominant white culture was not the dominant voice on the panel. Our moderator was also deliberate in his preparation so that each panelist would have roughly the same number of questions.
- Yielding to one another
In addition to what was happening on-screen, we had a group chat, a question & answer feed, and questions submitted via Twitter. At one point, while another panelist was talking, I commented in the group chat that I’d like to add something too, but with so much to keep track of, our moderator missed my comment and went on to direct the next question to the white man on the panel. But my fellow panelist noticed, and instead of answering the question, he said he wanted to think about it and would first yield to me since I had something to add. That was a wonderfully practical example of what we had just been talking about, of those in the majority making room for those in the minority, even to the point of turning down opportunities.
- Speaking up
On addressing microaggressions, the question was put to me as a church leader. I responded with an example of how I addressed microaggression in our wider church context. However, I realize that it’s not always possible to address these when they occur—those in the minority may not always have the opportunity, resources, energy, will, or power to address such microaggressions and to keep on addressing them. That can be exhausting and frustrating. Those in the majority also have a responsibility—not to speak over or take over, but to work together as partners.
- Being willing to learn
Before the panel started, our moderator asked me how to pronounce my name—this is a small example, but I appreciated his desire to get it right. On a larger scale, another panelist pointed out the diversity within black culture and the importance of not making assumptions. Instead of assuming you already know, take on a posture of learning.
For the rest of this article, please see “9 Ways to Engage About Race” in The Redbud Post.
JUSTICE: LAMENT AND HOPE
by April Yamasaki, a guest post for Asian American Women on Leadership
“Fiat justitia, ruat caelum” – Let justice be done though the heavens fall.
When my husband was in law school, this Latin quote was prominently displayed at the front door of the university’s law school building. The ancient roots of this quotation are unclear, but the meaning is unmistakable: Justice is to be done whatever the consequences, even if the heavens should fall.
In the 1930s in Alabama, Judge James Edward Horton made a controversial judgement to overturn the conviction of an African American teenager who had been found guilty and condemned to death for raping a white woman. Well into his second six-year term as a judge, Horton had a reputation for being fair-minded, and in this case his careful consideration of the evidence led him to overturn the conviction and order a new trial — even though he knew his decision might end his judicial career.
When Horton lost the next election, he was asked about the impact of his earlier judgement, and he replied with this phrase: “Fiat justitia, ruat caelum” – Let justice be done though the heavens fall. In terms of his own situation, let justice be done though his judicial career might be over. Let justice be done in spite of the personal and professional cost.
Yet the sad history of this case belies the high-mindedness of the quote. For although Horton had done what he could as a judge, the young defendant was re-tried, re-convicted, and re-sentenced to death. After a number of appeals he was sentenced instead to 75 years in prison, but died of cancer just a few months before his fortieth birthday. It would be many more years until his wrongful conviction would be recognized, and he was posthumously pardoned in 2013.
For the rest of this article that ends on a note of hope, please see “Justice: Lament and Hope” on the website for Asian American Women on Leadership.
HEALING THE HEALERS
When clergy serve in times of trauma, loss, and disaster, who cares for them? See Healing the Healers for more on this five-part film series and discussion guide.
For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better: