When I work on something I write, I reflect on past conversations, lessons and observations.
In doing so, I try to use constructive input, experience and observation and avoid self-censoring. I want to inform, contribute to ongoing discussions and open new conversations.
On one hand, I believe faith and values apply to all aspects of life. If someone tells me they believe their event or interest should be featured in “On Faith,” I generally agree. The way we interpret those connections, individually and collectively, is how we continue to bring faith into everyday life.
However, not everyone sees faith and values in this way. There are topics I write about that upset some readers. These readers contact me and say such topics shouldn’t be associated with spirituality and religious life.
I continue to write about those topics in this column anyway. It’s not defiance — not at all. It’s the understanding that the topics are indeed real matters of faith for some, if not all. It also is the hope that readers who find it distasteful when faith and such topics are linked will acknowledge that others believe differently.
One such topic is racism. Readers have asked me to stop looking at it through the lens of faith and values. I’ve been told it’s an issue that doesn’t touch or affect the majority of my readers, because the Courier’s readership is predominantly white.
I think about that when I write an On Faith about racism. I recall specific conversations. I reflect on my white grandmother telling me a white relative said I could stay under the radar if I just avoided the topic of race. I think about how such interactions worried her; she preferred for everyone to get along.
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While Grandma tended toward keeping the peace in most situations, she didn’t shy from disagreeing when it came to this discussion of racism and faith.
Later, she did say she had second-guessed herself for standing her ground in the conversation. She was glad she had spoken up, but she worried about the cost. There were other things she wished she’d said or said differently. It wasn’t the only time she’d spoken up about race, but it was especially memorable for her.
I remember it as the only time she ever told me that as a white person, she found it difficult and scary to talk to other white people about racism. She apologized for feeling that way. I told her it can’t be easy to disagree with others about such a divisive topic.
Her story is particularly memorable for me, too. I think about it when I write about racism in this column. It’s not that I want to move on to another topic. It’s that I want to do so in a way that keeps the conversation open.
When someone uses their position and influence to attack someone’s so-called race, it is racism. That’s because the person, operating from bias, applied power and acted on prejudice and assumption. It is a religious matter, regardless of the forum, because we each carry our values, beliefs and ideas with us into all our interactions.
As individuals, racism may spur us to react in outrage, cause us to deny it happened or send us into silence. Each response continues to shape the communities we build together.