The First Congregational Church, UCC in Amherst initially proposed the Coming Together project in 2012 and has been a strong supporter of the project ever since. Below are some specific action suggestions and information that the church provided to those who attended its worship service on June 28, 2015.
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
TAKE OTHER ACTIONS
What do we mean when we say we are “people of faith working to dismantle racism”?
As people of faith we are called by God to work for racial justice; to seek to eliminate racism from ourselves, from each other, and from the institutions and the culture of our society. We believe that all people are children of one loving God, and that all are precious in God’s sight.
We use the term “dismantle” because we understand (or are developing an understanding) that it’s not enough to individually avoid being prejudiced. Racism is a system that we all need to work together to dismantle, if we want an equitable and inclusive community and world.
Here are four areas in which we can all take steps now:
We can all learn more about racism – contemporary and historical. Part of what is hard on people of color in the Amherst area, is that so few white people really “get it” about how pervasive racism is today, both locally and nationally. If we want to dismantle racism, we’ll need to make learning about race and racism a lifelong practice.
- Go to the coming-together.org website and select the “Learn More About Racism” section. 1) Watch a “Video Clip” or two. 2) Read “What is Racism?” 3) Pick one of the brief “Featured Readings” and read it. 4) Talk to someone about what you have viewed and read.
- We recommend three books: Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving (2014). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander (2010). Becoming an Anti-Racist Church: Journeying Toward Wholeness, by Joseph Barndt (2011). All are available from the Anti-Racism Ministry Team.
- Attend local talks, performances, video showings, discussions, etc. Sign up on the website for the Coming Together e-mail list to be notified of some of these.
TALK AND LISTEN
Racism thrives on the silence of good white people. You can bring up the topic and get people talking and thinking about it almost anywhere. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say or if people disagree. The key is to break the silence and get people talking and listening. This is a skill you can develop, by practicing.
Every week there are items in the news related to race. Notice them and ask people what they think about them. Here are some questions you might use to get conversations started:
- What experiences have you had in trying to make friends with people of other races?
- How has your “race” affected your life, your relationships, your opportunities, etc.?
- What are your earliest memories of being aware that people are mistreated based on the color of their skin?
CONNECT WITH OTHERS
Dismantling racism will require collective effort. No one of us can do this alone. We will be more effective and have better lives if we broaden our relationships – both with people of our own “race” and with people of other racial backgrounds.
- MAKE FRIENDS
Racism thrives on separating us from each other. Every step we take to connect across racial differences is a step toward dismantling racism. 1) Pick someone you already know. How could you spend more time with them, deepen the relationship, invite them to do something with you? 2) Start one new relationship. Go out of your way to speak to the person often. Start with learning each others’ names, ask about family, ask their opinion about something. This could be with someone of a different class than your own.
- MAKE ALLIES – BE AN ALLY
All across the country a multi-racial movement is growing, set on dismantling racism and white supremacy. 3) Find at least one other person with whom you can share your opposition to racism and back each other to be part of the work of dismantling racism. Or join the Anti-Racism Ministry Team at First Church.
TAKE OTHER ACTIONS
- Donate to organizations led by people of color that promote racial justice. ColorOfChange.org is one good organization. You can donate, and participate in their campaigns/sign their petitions. You can learn a lot about contemporary issues of racism by getting on their e-mail list.
- Patronize local businesses run by people of color such as Baku’s Restaurant, A to Z Taxi, El Rinconsito restaurant, and many others, all in Amherst.
- Vote for candidates of color (and white candidates who prioritize racial justice) in elections at all levels. Advocate for racial justice at local school committee meetings.
- Make soup and invite people over to talk about how to undermine racism and white domination everywhere.
Please go to the website at www.coming-together.org and watch some of the “Video Clips” in the “Learn More About Racism” section, or read “What is Racism?, or explore one of the “Featured Readings”. There are also more suggestions there about “What can we do to dismantle racism?”