The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” – James 2:26
We received word that a virtual retreat for faculty and staff was in the works. One proposed component of the retreat was to further antiracism work that was supposed to have been started the previous summer. It was proposed that a panel of faculty/staff could share their experiences with racism. This triggered me as I know all too well that in the midst of this “awakening,” Black and brown people have been further traumatized for the benefit of whites seeking to understand their past, present and future.
I voiced these concerns to the planner (white/man) and was met with myriad excuses for white behavior and very little in the way of making spaces safe for those of us who experience the ugliness of racism in nearly every fabric of our existence. A meeting was scheduled and it was a disaster. He was dismissive of our experiences (which is why critical race theory is SO important) and his efforts to push this irresponsibly-assembled segment felt performative. The best start to dismantling racism? Acknowledging that Black and brown people did not create it, are not responsible for fixing it, and LISTENING to us.
As a Black woman, I am no stranger to the issues that come at that particular intersection of race and gender. I was leading a meeting and, as we were nearing time and about to adjourn, a colleague (white/man who we will call “Y”) asked to circle back to an issue that had been hashed out earlier in our meeting. Y’s stance was neither inquisitive nor respectful; he was combative each time I explained the procedure to him. This was not new behavior for this particular colleague, but I have only ever seen it exhibited toward Black women in leadership. Another colleague on the team (white/man who we will call “Z”), picking up on the unwarranted pushback, stepped in and repeated what I said to Y and he received the feedback immediately and without question.
As furious as I was that Y had to hear the information from a white, male mouth for it to be perceived as valid, I was thankful for Z for using his privilege to back me and alleviate the social/emotional burden I was needlessly experiencing in that moment. This is why I will always cherish co-conspirators over “allies.” Co-conspirators jump in to fight alongside you.
This month’s reflection was provided by Tiffany Butler of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, MD. If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean Toole, SJ: firstname.lastname@example.org.