Right now we are in the last phases of the required anti-racism training in our diocese. This last phase is meant to pick up the curmudgeons like me who are resisting because it will be our umpteenth anti-racism training, and there is a point of diminishing returns that set in quite a while ago. Besides, I’ve decided it’s not about race at all, it’s about culture.
I’m not sure how to describe what I mean by the word culture. Eric Law, who does a lot of training in this field and has written several very fine books on the subject, is the one to turn to for that. But it seems to me to do with a very complex combination of ethnic heritage and ethos with which one is identified by others and in which one self-identifies, as well as the color of one’s skin and other physical traits. Yet it’s more than that. There has to be some authenticity to the ethnic identity one has for one’s self, and I suspect that authenticity has to be endorsed by other members of the group. For instance, we went through a period where it was cool to claim some American Indian heritage, but unless the elders and members of a given tribe backed up that claim, it was a silly charade at best and terribly insulting at worst. Or, take me as another example. I can honestly claim to be Celtic on just about every side as far back as one can go, but whatever cultural ethos that might involve is lost to history. I may find it a curiosity to delve into for the fun of it, but my cultural ethos is just plain North American European with a heavy dose of Lake Wobegone, Minnesota.
With that in mind, I think we need to get away from anti-racism training and start more serious training in learning more about the ethnic cultures that make up America with an emphasis on those who have and continue to be denied a full measure of American membership by those of us who have always been in control of the membership committee. Moreover, learning about must also mean learning to respect, learning that fullness of membership does not mean becoming ersatz North American Europeans from Minnesota, and learning how to engage one another in ways that work for and with one another. It also means needing to give up our predisposition to make unwarranted assumptions about the ethnic identity and cultural ethos of others. I’m particularly sensitive to that since my own family includes so many different ethnicities and skin tones. Love and sex have a way to making that happen.
So, with that in mind, I’ll finally go to one of the anti-racism workshops and do my best to suffer through it, but I don’t have to like it.