"So You Want to Talk about Race" - Week 1 Recap

A group of 18 people (most from either Flemington Presbyterian Church, Grace United Church of Christ, or the Flemington Jewish Community Center) attended the introductory meeting of a group to discuss racism. The discussion was led by Ms Karen Buys at the Parish House, FPC. She made a brief introduction then attended to some housekeeping items. A schedule of readings and meeting places was distributed. That schedule follows this synopsis.

In addition to the current text, a number of additional resources were presented and discussed for supplementary reading (listed further below; details of these are available upon request).

Individuals introduced themselves (names, affiliations, thoughts on this group at the outset).

A lengthy discussion was then initiated on the definitions and meanings (editorial comment: sometimes those are different) of the terms race, racism, and white privilege.

As might be imagined, there were many thoughts offered on these terms.

Although Color has been frequently raised as the distinctive feature of race, the discussion highlighted that our concepts of this stem from distinctions from Others, be it by skin color, religious observance, national origin (and cultural aspects derived from that, language, accents, cuisine, customs). All of these distract from the unity of the human race and that all distinctions are artificial. In the words of one participant, it’s as if Society decided that all people with Type “O” blood were inferior, and everyone had to wear a badge that named their blood type. We would all see that this kind of distinction is artificial, and, to put it bluntly, stupid.

One key distinction, that was made from my perspective, was that prejudice is not racism per se. When the power to impose upon an prejudiced class occurs, then racism is present (to be grammatical, I suppose that is classism). Anyway, it could be reduced to a simple equation:

(Prejudice) + (power to impose) = Oppression

Without power to impose, there is just prejudice/bias/bigotry (or other interchangeable terms). Racism causes harm.

Of course, it’s not possible for one observer to convey the full richness of the discussion here. Do come if your schedule permits.

— Duncan Taylor

I gave an example today of the everyday bias I feel most of you don’t even notice. That example was the title of the lead article of last week’s Hunterdon Democrat, “It Feels Like America.” Attached is a picture of the article (Page 1 and Page 2). I want to reiterate that I don’t object to the comment made by the veteran. I am just disappointed that the Hunterdon Democrat chose that title because (in my mind) it blatantly appeals to a certain segment of the community… even though we can debate how significant that segment that is.

 One of you wondered (to me) if the title was chosen because “It Feels Like America” might be a title related to celebrating our diversity. I am shrugging at that… oh, if only that was true. Each of you can look at the title, look at the pictures, read the article and decide for yourselves. By choosing that title, I believe the Hunterdon Democrat is trying to appeal to a majority of their audience. And perhaps I’m wrong, but I think most of you at today’s meeting would not have even noticed the subtle message there.

When Jesus had a chance to simply say “All Lives Matter,” he didn’t. There are lots of examples in the Christian Bible of Jesus’ response when speaking to power about groups of people who were being oppressed. Examples that jump out are: Jesus would say “Children’s Lives Matter” or “Adulterer’s Lives Matter” or “Samaritan Lives Matter” or “Sick People’s Lives Matter.” When confronted with power, Jesus didn’t avoid the real issues by responding “All Lives Matter.”

— Bill Taylor

Our at-home readers are welcome to add their thoughts to the conversation in the comments. Also, any at-home readers interested in a get-together with other at-home readers for in person discussion may email kelly.ospina@graceuccnj.org.