Anti-Racism White Privilege Symposium Reflection

02/15/2022 11:20 am

Several sisters and partners in mission on staff attended the La Crosse White Privilege Symposium either virtually or in-person at the La Crosse Center Dec. 3-4, 2021. We invited attendees to reflect on their experience and have included Sister Maria Friedman's reflection below:

By Sister Maria Friedman

For any event I have an immediate reaction and then something that lingers.

The first night I was impressed with the 600 people registered – some in person, some online, 600 people wanting to assess their experience of white privilege. That was heartening. The next day there was keynoter #2, Jasiri X. I’m not interested in rappers, I said to myself. He turned out to be my favorite keynoter.

Now I look at what images from the conference remain. What sticks with me? I am aware of two striking truths.

#1: A person who is not included experiences deep pain. It isn’t that people are mean – though there is plenty of that – but to not include people in activities, to not invite them in, often causes them – in this case minority persons – to feel like outsiders – forever. One speaker talked of minority people saying to one another, “Why don’t white people care (about our suffering)?” That struck me.

#2: White people and minorities approach racism differently: When white people talk about race it comes from their heads, one speaker said; when minorities talk about race it’s what is in their hearts.

The overall message for me was the pain that minority people experience.

What I want to remember is always to include the outsider. It may be a person of another nationality, race, color or culture. I want to become conscious of the “outsider” in any situation and do what I can to insure s/he feels welcome. I’m not with that many people who seem “other”; I can use situations I have but I want to look for opportunities to be with “the other” in hopes of increasing my sensitivity.

I can practice inclusion in all my life experience, not only in racial situations. If I am with five nuns and a layperson, what do I do to help the layperson feel welcomed and part of the group?  Or four senior citizens and a recent college grad? Four veteran employees and one new to the job.

I want to become deeply conscious of “the other.”

Someone said to me once: “I was a military recruiter and the military likes to push service to country, the flag, the people and blah blah blah. The reality is that you are there for the soldiers next to you, for their security, survival, friendship and life.”

I like that. I am here for the person next to me, all the people next to me – for their security, survival, friendship and life.

I hope to implement this – at least a bit – in my life.

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