by Will Fuller Kairos-Milwaukie UCC

Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as subhuman, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods. – Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

There is a strange kind of enigma associated with the problem of racism.  No one, or almost no one, wishes to see themselves as racist; still, racism persists, real and tenacious.  – Albert Memmi, Racism

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, in an essay on Racism Without Racists, calls this enigma “color-blind racism.”  Unlike old Jim Crow, “contemporary racial inequality is reproduced through ‘new racism’ practices that are subtle, institutional, and apparently nonracial.”  This new racism is largely invisible to those of us who are seen as white.  We may sincerely oppose racism and yet support it by blindly doing the wrong thing or failing to do the right thing.  In short, we don’t have to be racists to foster racism.

Bursting Our Bubbles: Are We Really Post-Racism?

February 3, 2013, 11:45 AM at Kairos-Milwaukie UCC, 4790 SE Logus Rd, Milwaukie, OR                                                                     

Do you consider yourself post-racist? Are you “color-blind”?  The Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and Kairos-Milwaukie UCC invite you to a forum which may burst your bubble.

A panel presentation featuring Joseph Santos-Lyons, of the Asian Pacific Alliance of Oregon, Melissa Bennett, Native American clinical pastoral intern at the Oregon State Hospital who has written a play about her ancestors’ treatment at boarding schools, and Cecil Prescod, former national FOR and Oregon FOR Board member, Director of Christian Education at Ainsworth UCC; moderated by DeEtte Beghtol Waleed. The discussion will challenge us to consider Oregon’s racist history and ways we can address our own unconscious biases.


Becoming Better Bystanders

by Jeanine Elliott, Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ, Beaverton, OR

Some years back, when 9/11 was still fresh in our hearts, I was on a ferry in British Columbia.  Over on the far side of the ship a man of Middle Eastern ancestry was on his cell, talking loudly in his native language.  It was very loud.  People around me began a buzz of conversation, voicing concerns about manners and common courtesy.  Then we heard from across the way an English-speaking man begin to confront the man, not about his rudeness but about his ethnicity.  As he began to verbally abuse the cell phone speaker, using inappropriate racial slurs, the conversation on our side of the boat shifted instantly to a tone of regret and concern.  “Oh, but we didn’t mean that.”  Not verbalized, but seeming to be part of our response was “We wanted him to be quieter; we didn’t intend for him to be attacked. We didn’t want his ethnic background to be highlighted.”  In the meantime, someone had gone to find the first officer and order was quickly restored.   We had watched a “hate” moment arise, we had shared the “we didn’t mean that” moment, but we had taken no action.

 Where did it leave us who were the bystanders for this little event, an event which was in many ways a metaphor for many of our daily interactions?  I probably was not the only one to continue my journey with a feeling of unsettledness and uncertainty.  When we started our trip most of us would have been thinking about our own comfort.  When the loud one-sided conversation started we were annoyed that our quiet time was disturbed.  We certainly weren’t thinking about the fragility of the social contract and the rights of all, at least not until the abusive attack started.  When we reached the “Oh, but we didn’t mean that” level of thinking, we had added a level of cognitive complexity, i.e. we were thinking about what we did mean.  We still had not moved to action, but we had the potential for becoming  better bystanders.