Maybe you have racism figured out. I thought I did. I thought I was pretty enlightened to the issues of race and racism in this country. Then I read Debby Irving’s book, Waking Up White…and finding myself in the story of race.
Irving’s book is her own discovery of the pervasiveness of racism in her own life. It is not meant to speak for all white people in America. She invites us into her own story of ‘waking up’ to the unconscious assumptions and embedded structures of race in America. She shares her experience with painful honesty and self-deprecating humor. Between the chuckling and wincing at Irving’s story, I found more than enough of my own experience. Many others have had the same experience. The spirit of the book isn't to hit people over the head with guilt, as much as it is to turn on a light in some unexamined parts of our brain.
Maybe that is why the Co-Moderators of our PCUSA invited all churches to read Waking Up White this year. It is offered as a “one church, one book” experience. Many churches have taken on this challenge and a few have shared their stories. I included it as one of the three books in this summer’s Pastor’s Book Club.
The Pastor’s Book Club is a simple and effective approach to adult education, especially in the summer. People can read a book that interests them at their own pace, and then we get together to discuss it. We’ll discuss Waking Up White on Sunday, August 13 @ 12:00- 1:30 pm in the Sedalia Room. Bring a sack lunch if you’d like. Judging from the number of books that are left on the shelf, we could have a good-sized group.
Racism is one of those things that is hard to talk about. It conjures up images of ignorant prejudice, hate crimes, riots, white-hooded crowds espousing nauseating beliefs, and shameful acts of violence. It is understandable why no one wants to talk about it. I get it. We rightly condemn the expressions of racism of the past. We even have laws that prohibit discrimination based on race. Things are much better today than they were in the past. So why do we have to keep talking about it today?
Irving’s story affirms that we have indeed come a long way when it comes to racism in this country...and we still have a long way to go. Just because the expressions of racism are not as overt as before doesn’t mean they aren’t still there. Maybe you know all that. I thought I did, too. Then I read Waking Up White. I’m looking forward to talking about on Sunday.
By the way, you can catch a quick summary of Irving's experience through this TED Talk she gave a couple years ago: