I’d like to be able to say that I write this article from a distance, from the calm context of Canada rather than from the conflicted context of the United States. But that would be a delusion. Racial injustice manifests itself differently in the Canadian context, but it remains just as demeaning, dismissive, and destructive.
The founding moment for Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) happened on June 10, 1935. Recovering alcoholics and their families from all around the world are celebrating the unique and powerful personal and family transformations that are the result of this simple Twelve Step program. The power of A.A. and the Twelve Steps is now frequently applied to many other addictions. And the number of people grateful to Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith for a chance meeting in Akron in June of 1935 continues to grow.
A recent trip to Lisieux in France deepened my understanding of Therese of the Little Flower and her spirituality. I was surprised and delighted with what she had to teach me about surrender and faith and about persistence in learning how to be an anti-racist in America.
The truth will set us free; Leo Tolstoy said truth is more powerful than violence, circa 1904. My devotion to non-violence began at the Syracuse Peace Council during my high school years in the 60s. It became more studied during the first Iraq War in 1990 under President George H. Bush.
America is in denial about its “war” on racism. Only one side is truly engaged – the white supremacists. They are organized and committed to winning at all costs. If those of us who want to end racism are serious, we have an imperative to organize, fight, and not stop until we are victorious. We need the commitment of a warrior and the heart of a nonviolent revolutionary.
Monumental stands on social justice have followed social upheaval. The end of World War II led to the adoption of two policy documents that make our current gaps and inequities in health care appalling. In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and, more specific to health, the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution (adopted in 1946) declared health and access to healthcare a fundamental human right. In 2013, the World Health Organization went further by broadening attention to the heath care rights of specific groups based on mental, gender and sexual health which led to a focus on determinants of health, including social (WHO, 2013).
The practice of racism and white supremacy in the United States, from conception, has always been structural and institutional. The majority of U.S. history has been one of policies and legislation codifying the advancement of those classified as white and legally denying opportunities for those groups that were not.
In 2020, many white faith-based, as well as white secular, communities discovered – with the death of George Floyd — that racism still existed and operated with severity and impunity.
This week I am continuing to explore concrete recommendations from author Eric Deggans about daily actions that advance our commitment to be anti-racist. In his article Not Racist is not Enough: Putting in the Work to be Anti-Racist, the first tip is about “accepting that we’ve all been raised in a society that elevates white culture over others.” In last week’s post, I looked at how we each might conduct a racial justice self-examination to advance our awareness and motivate personal change.
In last week’s post, I invited readers to share what they have learned about working for racial justice in the nearly two years since George Floyd was murdered. I shared some resources which I have found helpful, including an NPR podcast/article by Eric Deggans. In his article, “Not Racist is not Enough: Putting in the Work to be Anti-Racist,” Deggans is very concrete. He offers four practical tips below that I’ll explore in this and future posts: