November 2017 – Minutes

CLJP Minutes November 14 2017
Blue Ridge Room, Westminster Canterbury

10 Present: Taylor Beard, Carroll Houle, Hal Horan, Dave Warren, Peter Weatherly, Ed Murray, Diane Murray, Bob McAdams, Carol Muntz, Chip Sanders

Chip Sanders offered prayer and presided.

The Minutes of October 10, prepared by Weatherly, were approved.

Treasurer’s Report: Since the October 10 balance of 2,411.85, Beard reported an income of 120.00 consisting of dues 60.00 each paid by McFarlane and Horan; an expense of 100.00 as an honorarium for the luncheon speaker, Harriet Khur as well as payment of 10.00 for her lunch, resulting in a balance as of November 14 of 2, 421.85. Khur endorsed her check over to the International Rescue Committee’s Charlottesville agency, of which she is the Executive Director.  Beard commented on the shrinkage of the CLJP membership. And again, encouraged members to invite guests to the meetings.

Announcement: McAdams offered the following: On Sunday, November 19, at 3:00, Girl-Up UVA will partner with the United Nations Association Blue Ridge Virginia Chapter to present a program focusing on diversity and cultural issues affecting girls and young women throughout the world. Charlene Green, Manager of Charlottesville’s Office of Human Rights, will speak from her twenty-five years of experience training people on diversity and cultural competency, then members of Girl-Up UVA will lead the audience in Listening Circle dialogs. This event will take place at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, 717 Rugby Rd. For more information contact Susan Roberts at SRwroberts@gmail.com

Program: Horan presented a community conversation guide made possible by The Christian Century, called UNLEARNING RACISM, a pdf of 14 pages, containing three articles from the magazine’s past issues.

In SEEING WHITENESS, Reggie Williams, Professor of Ethics at McCormack Seminary, introduces us to three games for learning, first hand, the problems of racism.

The one called PRIVILEGE WALK, entails 10 paces between a starting and finish line.  With each positive response one advances one pace to statements such as “IT IS ASSUMED AT AN EARLY AGE THAT YOU WOULD BE GOING TO COLLEGE.” or “YOU NEVER THINK TWICE BEFORE CALLING THE POLICE.” Typically whites get to the finish line, while others, especially people of color, end up a few paces from or actually at the starting line.

The second game, CROSSING THE LINE, starts with each one standing side by side.  Each must answer honestly such categories as ADOPTED, NATURAL PARENTS DIVORCED, FAMILY EXPERIENCED EFFECTS OF DRUG ADDICTION.  One having the courage to give an honest answer, must get out of the line and face the “crowd,” which means facing those still in the line.

Williams sees these games as dealing with feelings with the apparent lesson, “Don’t be hostile toward others, choose tolerance, and embrace the differences among us.”  But, Williams insists, race is more than  feelings and does not answer the challenge to actually see whiteness and its power to distort how we actually understand each another.

Enter the “Racial Rorschach Test” game.  It can be played either in a classroom, by name withheld paper responses to verbal categories or, for a larger group, writing down the first thing that comes to your mind responses and placing them in boxes labeled ASIAN PEOPLE, MEXICAN PEOPLE, ARAB PEOPLE, MIDDLE EASTERN PEOPLE, BLACK PEOPLE, WHITE PEOPLE, ETC.

Asians were “good at math,” “poor drivers,” “stoic and unfeeling.”  Middle Eastern folks were “terrorism,” “Radical Islam,” “tough to be a woman,”  Blacks were “music,” “angry,” “prison,” “athletes.”  Whites were “sweater vests,” George Clooney, “no race,” “nonethnic,” “normal,”

“Normal” means that white is seen to be as the default, the template, of what it means to be human.

Or, in Williams’ words, “Seeing white as ‘normal’ is part of the ideology of white supremacy.”

In the second article, Williams is the first of the 7 responders to the slogan “Black Lives Matter.”  His little history lesson, which is quoted in full, is worthy of plenty of white meditation:

The introduction of Africans en masse to the Americas involved an ideology that legitimized buying and selling them as chattel. Wendell Berry argues that whites didn’t go to Africa because of race; they did so because they could. They had the means

to enter Africa and take what they wanted. Race logic was birthed as an ideology of difference, a financially incentivized ideology to legitimize the lucrative use of slave labor by people who became “white” in the assembling of the new world. Race logic made a profit-based distinction between black flesh and white humanity.

Since the time of slavery, travestied black figures evolved into many different types, flowing from the imagination of white authors onto pages, stages, and screens. These depictions of black life have had little to do with actual black people and everything to do with efforts to stabilize an anxious white psyche as it struggles to know and to maintain its idealized self. Disaster is understandable for black lives—they are antagonists in a narrative of humanity written to serve white supremacy. To say “black lives matter” is to interrupt this story in a world that values life according to its proximity to the unstable template of white, upwardly mobile masculinity.                         (emphasis added.)

For Williams  BLM, like past slogans “FREEDOM NOW” and “BLACK POWER,” is a way of addressing the enduring struggle against white supremacy, and the white’s “ongoing doubtfulness of black humanity.”

Anthea D. Butler of the University of Pennsylvania answers a counter slogan by saying, “Racism and systemic injustice is the evil that the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting. If we believe that ‘all lives matter,’ we first have to consider which lives are treated as if they do not matter.”

Brian Bantum of Seattle Pacific University helps explain the need for protests, the most recent being kneeling NFL players:

There is not a form of government or economic policy that inherently resists white supremacy  White supremacy must be overcome with persistent, strategic, and concrete assertions of our mutual humanity, working against any policy or system that dehumanizes or marginalizes another. And oftentimes this refusal does not look respectable.                              (emphasis added)

In the last Century article, Teri McDowell Ott deals with the abiding rage in the black community against  the imposed default lie of white supremacy. She starts with a remark given by Denton, a black philosophy student, in a discussion following a lecture on race at Monmouth College where Ott is chaplain, “Well, I pretty much think that white people created these problems, and so white people need to fix them. That burden should not be on us.”

Ott then quotes James Baldwin’s title essay, “Notes of a Native Son,” and the rage he felt at being refused service in restaurant after restaurant and finally threw a half empty water mug at the shy and frightened waitress.  “Baldwin later came to terms with his anger,” Ott writes, “noting the destructive nature of hatred, which ‘never fails to destroy the man who hate[s].’  But he also wrote that “there is not a Negro alive who does not have [this rage] in his blood.” And I recalled hearing it, though in more restrained form, simmering in the voices of students like Denton who are frustrated and tired, angry and resentful that here, in 2016, white people still fail to understand.”

In the discussion that followed, the consensus expressed the pain of trying to bridge the gulf between the races even in such organizations as the CLUJP.  That, and the struggle to find the most effective means to a genuine shared humanity, which surely will involve sacrifice on the part of the beneficiaries of white supremacy.

And yet, if the vote in Virginia is any indication in the diversity of race, gender and transgender elections, there is surely reason to actively hope for a more perfect union.

Diane Murphy strongly recommended the book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson.

The next meeting is set for December 12.

The meeting adjourned at 2:01 pm.

Respectfully Submitted
Hal Horan, Recording Secretary