Clackamas United Church of Christ believes that the Gospel calls us to work for a world where racism no longer exists.
We have many sermons that explore the racism that continues to permeate American society. During the summer of 2020, we held weekly Zoom conversations that explored racism and American history, policing, politics, economics, war, and religion. You can find the curriculum for those conversations below.
Amira Stanley, our Minister of Justice and Witness, is holding an online book study on “Me and White Supremacy.”
You can watch the History of Racism in Oregon by the Rev. Charlie Hinkle at 11 minutes into the video below
Below is our anti-racism curriculum. You may use this curriculum for self study or for group study.
Session 1: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with Emmanuel Acho
Questions for group discussion:
- What surprised you about this video?
- How do you respond to Emmanuel’s answer to the question, “Why riot?”
- How does Emmanuel describe white privilege?
- Respond to the quote by Lyndon Johnson, “You can’t shackle and chain someone for hundreds of years, liberate them to freely compete with the rest, and still justly believe that you’ve been fair.”
- “I, as a black man, have to calculate every move I make the second I walk outside my house.” What emotions or thoughts emerged when you hear that quote?
- What did you think about Emmanuel’s response to the use of the N word?
- Emmanuel answers what we can do to help solve racism – exposure, education, compassion, and empathy. What do you think of these topics? Is there anything more that we might be able to do as a group?
Session 2: Robin DiAngelo and White Privilege
Questions for Deconstructing White Privilege with Robin DiAngelo
- “I was socialized to see race (racism) as individual acts of discrimination and prejudice. Individual acts that anybody could do to anybody else. And if you did those acts, you were a bad person. And that is why, since I saw myself as a good person, I didn’t see myself connected to racism… I now understand racism as a system, a deeply embedded system that our country was founded on and that all of our institutions were created out of and every institution reinforces the system. And it’s a system of unequal power.” What do you think of DiAngelo’s change from seeing racism primarily about individual acts to seeing racism as an embedded system within the United States?
- How would you define racism?
- DiAngelo talks about the differences between individual prejudice and a system of inequality. She explains that racism is “group prejudice backed by institutional power.” How do you respond to her explanation of the differences between prejudice and racism? Where might we see those differences today?
- Is your racial identity something you have ever thought about? Has your racial identity influenced the way you see the world? If so, how?
- DiAngelo suggests that one reason white people insist “I’m not racist” is a way to “rationalize that we ourselves are not complicit in this system.” How do you respond to that?
- How would you describe the term white fragility? How would you respond to it in yourself or in someone else (or would you respond to it)?
- What are other things from this video that you’d like to respond to?
Session 3: Black Lives Matter and Defunding the Police
- How is the Black Lives Matter movement related to defunding the police?
- In your view, what does the phrase “defund the police” actually mean?
- “What you’ll see (about large police budgets) is that we have deeply de-prioritized providing people their basic needs. And instead we have over prioritized punishing human beings.” How do you respond to this comment from Patrice Cullors?
- What did you think about the disparities between the police budgets and other services in New York and Chicago?
- “When it comes to 911 calls, in many cases, police officers are the first responders to mental health related emergencies. That’s important because 1 in every 4 deaths from police shootings are people with mental health problems… Being tasked with jobs they’re not trained to do is an idea some police officers acknowledge, too.”” How do you respond to that statement?
- “The police arrest over ten million people a year. And the vast majority of those arrests, especially in black and poor neighborhoods, are for minor offenses, like drug possession or drinking in public. That heavy handed approach is over-policing. But when it comes to violent crimes, the rate of police arrests is incredibly low. And that’s under-policing, which leaves communities of color underserved.” How do you respond to that quote?
- Patrice Cullors says, “We live in an economy of punishment. We, as in black people, as poor people, as in marginal people, police are not used to keep us safe. What we have seen over the last seven years is black people being killed, humiliated, violated, sexually assaulted, maimed by law enforcement. We haven’t seen it get any better. Reimagining public safety is a matter of life and death.” How do you respond to that quote?
- What do you think about the concern for safety if the police are defunded?
- What do you think about the movement to abolish the police?
- What other quotes or topics in this video would you like to discuss?
Session 4: Michelle Alexander: The Future of Race in America
Questions to think about:
- What statements or statistics from Michelle Alexander were particularly meaningful or surprising to you?
- How do you respond to this quote: “Most Americans violate drug laws in their lifetime…but the enemy in this war has been racially defined. Even though studies have consistently shown for decades that, contrary to popular belief, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, this drug war has been waged almost exclusively on black and brown communities. In fact, where significant differences in the data can be found, it frequently suggests that white youth are more likely to engage in illegal drug use, drug abuse, and drug dealing than black youth.”
- In what ways do police have a direct monetary interest in keeping the War on Drugs going?
- How does this affect the way police deal with drug dealers, who tend to cause violence?
- What role has the US Supreme Court had in the drug war?
- How does a nonviolent drug crime affect a person for the rest of their life?
- What does the prison system seemed designed to do?
- What are the barriers to solving this problem?
- What actions do we need to take to end mass incarceration?
Session 5: Biz Lindsay-Ryan – Talking with Kids about Racism
- “Over 50 percent of white parents have never talked with their children about race.” Did your parents talk with you about race? Why or why did they not talk with you about race?
- What are the “tools” that Biz offers to us for talking with children about race?
- What events/experiences can you look back on and identify an element of bias in surprise? Were these internalized projections of our own expectations? Or were they self-fulfilling prophecies stemming from our own self measure? Or were they re-emerging conditioning?
- What are ways each of us can address these without a sense of overwhelming guilt?
- What steps can each of us take to remove our experience and hear one another without guilt or judgment?
- Recognizing that these conversations are not easy and are an ongoing process, how can each of us come together as a community to foster these ideas? How can we work together in unity to teach our children in a more mundane manner?
- How might this video help us talk with adults about racism?
Session 6: Emmanuel Acho and Carl Lentz – Race and Religion
1. What does Emmanuel mean when he says that “compassion without confrontation is like fruitless, sentimental commiseration”? What might compassion WITH confrontation look like in the Church?
2. Why do you think churches are some of the biggest propagators of racist ideology in this country? What makes them different from other institutions?
3.According to Carl Lentz, many people remember the Sermon on the Mount incorrectly. They remember Jesus saying “Blessed are the peacekeepers” instead of “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). What is the difference between a “peacekeeper” and a “peacemaker”?
4. What implications does this rereading of the scripture have for American Christians? What do we all need to do differently?
5. What does Emmanuel suggest that we do, as Christians, to repair the damage our spiritual forefathers created? Do you find his suggestions sufficient, or should we do more?
6. According to Emmauel, how does the story of the Good Samaritan relate to the work of anti-racism? What questions should we be asking about ourselves and about the oppressed?
Related article: Racism among white Christians is higher than among nonreligious. That’s no coincidence. – https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/racism-among-white-christians-higher-among-nonreligious-s-no-coincidence-ncna1235045?fbclid=IwAR1PdhjRQbiEMhFIaC3HjXg1-ndH15dFJzQEa1Qiy_54XMNW03HS-oWw5Bc
Session 7 – Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod
- What thoughts came to you mind as Rev. Prescod talked about his life experiences?
- What did you think of Rev. Prescod’s reflection on the biblical roots of protesting?
- What did questions would you have for this conversation?
Session 8: Martin Luther King Jr. and Tone Policing – Part 1
(Fair warning – there are some cuss words in this video, but it is the best video on tone policing that I’ve found. Maybe it’s a good opportunity to practice how not to tone police. Also, you can do part 1 and part 2 together or separately.)
- “Tone policing, or the tone argument, is when you attempt to dismiss a claim someone makes by attacking the tone in which it was given rather than the content of the message itself.” Where might you see an example of tone policing in King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail? Have you seen examples of tone policing today?
- “We have to consider our own responsibilities instead of only condemning our ideological opponent…The problem is that accusing people of tone policing is often tone policing itself. You are basically saying, ‘I get to use whatever tone I want because I’m right.’” What do you make of this trap? Should we try to avoid it? If so, how?
- “If you perceive that someone has a hostile tone, instead of detracting from the conversation, maybe try to consider why they might be so emotional about this topic and try to sympathize.” What are some other ways to respond in these situations?
Session 8: Tone Policing and Martin Luther King Jr. – Part 2
Read the letter online: https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
- King lived in Atlanta, but went to Birmingham, Alabama to participate in marches and sit-ins. The Birmingham circuit judge issued an injunction against the protests, but protesters refused to follow his orders. King attended the protests and was labeled an “outside agitator” by white clergy. King wrote his letter in response to them. In light of that brief history, what do you make of this statement, “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
- King was criticized for using direct, nonviolent action and creating tension. This is related to the “Tone Policing” video we are also going to watch. What are your thoughts about the following paragraph? “You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.”
- King talks about just and unjust laws and when it is appropriate to break the law. What do you think of the following quote? “One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all…Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.”
- This might be the most famous quote from King’s letter. Reflect on this: “First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
- King talks about black led movements that were more violent and that he thought “have lost faith in America.” He wrote, “The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.” How was King able to keep faith in America?
- What comments or questions would you like to discuss about King’s letter?
Session 9 – Racism and Climate Change – Adriana Laurent
- What were your thoughts or feelings while Adriana shared her story about Hurricane Mitch?
- How are climate change and social justice related?
- How does climate change lead to increased migration?
- Adriana shows a graph of countries that are at high and low risk for climate change vulnerability. What did you think about her graph?
- This talk was deliverd in 2018. Adriana says that from 2008-2018, “…about 26.4 million people per year have been displaced by natural disasters.” What do you think about that statistic?
- CBS News reports as of September 9, 2020, “California wildfires have already burned 2.2 million acres in 2020 – more than any other year on record.” What do you make of Adriana’s talk, especially in light of the wildfires is California and Oregon? https://www.cbsnews.com/news/california-wildfires-burn-2-million-acres-record-breaking/
- Adriana ends on a word of hope. Do you have hope when it comes to racism and/or climate justice?
Session 10: Challenging Racism, Militarism and War – Michael McPhearson
- McPhearson begins his talk discussing intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberly Crenshaw. What difference does the concept of “intersectionality” make to our anti-racism conversations and work?
- On October 31, 2019, President Trump declared November the “National American History and Founders Month.” Why did McPhearson say this was symbolic of larger race problems in the US?
- What did you make of the phrase “White Patriarchal Christian Superiority” and its connection to the Trump presidency?
- Respond to this quote from the 1619 podcast, “This is a history about American capitalism, about the foundations of American capitalism, about the American economy. And it was an economy that got started in brutality. Slavery allowed this poor, fledgling nation to turn into a colossal power house in the global economy. But what slavery also created was a culture of American capitalism that was incredibly brutal.”
- How does McPhearson’s talk relate to the military industrial complex and racism?
- “Work on your white and male fragility.” How did you respond to this statement by McPherson?
- Respond to this quote: “We must feel in our bones that our futures are bound up with each other. We must unite, for in that unity the forces of hate face defeat. They know this, they fear this, and continuously work to keep us apart and will kill to do so. Examples are the assassination of Martin Luther King and the murder of Fred Hampton. Sometimes the future looks bleak, but look around us. Look at your life and with whom you associate within the struggle. Take heart and be hoyful. We are a broad spectrum of genders, colors, views and creeds. We are smarter, we have more numbers, we have a more deep rooted history than ever before. We have the means. We can win.”
- What topics from McPhearson’s talk did you find important?
10. Joy Reed Discusses the Breonna Taylor Case
- Joy describes the police officer’s bullets as “spraying everywhere.” It was chaotic, even spraying into other apartments. Breonna was just sleeping when she was shot and killed by the chaotic bullets. What are your thoughts on this chaos that led to Breonna’s tragic death?
- The police tried to charge Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend, for shooting at them and hitting one officer in the leg. What do you make of the fact that the police dropped the charges because of the public outrage?
- The police had already arrested Jamarcus Glover, Breonna’s ex boyfriend. They said they would let him go if he stated that Breonna was involved in his drug ring. She was not and he refuse to claim she was involved.
- The attorney general, Daniel Cameron, said that everything that happened was perfectly legal, except that officer Hankinson didn’t aim. He was guilty of putting the lives of people in other apartments in danger. What do you make of that reasoning?
- The police did not have body cameras on. What does that detail mean for you?
- William Barr has stated that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist outfit and black people should not be angry with how they are treated. He is blind to systemic racism, which influences his actions and nonactions. What might we be able to do to combat the fact that the US Attorney General is blind to systemic racism?
- Joy states that there will never be justice because the police union is the most powerful union in many cities. They can pay off families with large settlements because paying off settlements are included in police budgets. ”They would rather settle than give justice to the families.” How can we have justice if this is the case?
- What general questions, comments, or feelings do you have about Breonna Taylor’s murder and the ensuing case?