Committing to Be Anti-Racist

Ever since the beginning of the Generous Space community, about seven years ago, we’ve been seeking to continue to enlarge the circle. From the start, the idea of loving across difference and our impoverishment if any voices were missing were central to our posture and way of engaging each other. We wanted our community to be diverse.

Over the years we grew in our understanding and attentiveness to the idea of intersectional justice. We recognized that all of us have areas in which we experience privilege and others where we lack privilege. And we wanted to be attuned to those among us who had more intersecting identities that meant they experienced a lot less social privilege than others.

Inevitably there was pushback.

Some thought we were getting way too political. Or too politically correct.

Others thought we weren’t moving nearly fast enough. We got called out for white supremacy.

Some wondered if focusing on many different justice needs would detract from our key focus at the intersection of LGBTQ+ and faith realities. A long time friend shared with me that ten plus years ago an emphasis on racial justice had caused conflict in one major LGBTQ+ Christian ministry eventually leading to its dissolution as an organization. Many of us are aware of what seemed to be tension within the Reformation Project regarding how to live into its commitments for racial justice.

From day one, I have longed for more BIPOC folks (black, Indigenous, people of colour) to find a sense of home within the GS community. I’ve also felt unsure of how to get there.  There have been times I’ve seen BIPOC folks come into the community – but not stay. The revolving door is a complex reality that likely can’t be attributed to one single reason – but it none-the-less breaks my heart and motivates me to do whatever I can to make sure that people feel that Generous Space is a safe place to find a sense of deep Belonging and to celebrate their Belovedness.

So this fall, we are intentionally working with Jenna Tenn-Yuk to move more deeply into our commitments to be an anti-racist ministry.  In his book, “How to Be an AntiRacist”, Ibram X. Kendi says, “There is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “anti-racist.” He goes on, “The only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it – and then dismantle it.”

Jenna will be talking with BIPOC folks from within the GS community to listen to their experiences, perceptions, and observations. We’ll also survey a broader group of BIPOC people who have connected at some point with Generous Space. Jenna will be working with our staff team to process what she’s hearing.

The reality is, we are all steeped in systemic racism. We might think that we aren’t racist because we feel like our heart is wide open to people from all backgrounds. However, we may be unaware of the subtle, systemic realities that demonstrate the ways that whiteness has shaped all of us.

I firmly believe that we can’t compartmentalize our pursuit of justice. We can’t work for LGBTQI2S+ justice without being intentionally aware of other systemic injustice and oppression that affects us. The deeper we are willing to look, to wake up, to seek transformation – the more fulsome will our vision and experience of justice be. How can we dismantle the barriers that are preventing our flourishing? By paying attention and dismantling anything that resists our full equity as those who are Beloved and those who Belong.

I confess that I’m a learner in all of this. That makes me feel a little vulnerable and sensitive. I’m afraid of getting called out, of assumptions being made about my ignorance or my intentions – when I just want people to see my heart. So I’m praying that God will give me the courage to step more deeply into the humility that C.S. Lewis defined as, “Self-forgetfulness.” I want to learn. I want to grow. I want to experience transformation that I might not yet even be able to imagine.

And that’s my hope for us as a community. That we would catch the vision of justice that God is calling our community to be energized by. No one pointing fingers with the accusing judgment that “You’re racist – you’re a bad person.” We are all learning and growing together – and those further down the road can help those of us just awakening to new understandings.

The truth is, we all benefit from becoming more clearly anti-racist as a community. Liberation will bless us all.

In Ibram’s book, he begins by telling the story of a speech he gave in high school for a Martin Luther King Jr. competition. In his speech, which at the time he thought was motivational and inspiring, he regurgitated many tired racist assumptions. He says, “A racist culture had handed me the ammunition to shoot Black people, to shoot myself, and I took it and used it.”

This story made me both sad and hopeful. Sad that systemic racism is so pervasive that at times it is not be easily detected. Hopeful that we can all learn and grow.

Internalized racism. Internalized homophobia. Internalized misogyny and sexism. Any form of internalized self-loathing has got to be acknowledged, addressed and dismantled. They are lies. And whether it’s internalized or it’s the effect of being steeped in these systems, the truth we are called to live is that we are Beloved and we Belong.

That is what Generous Space stands for. So that is the work that we will do.

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