Framing Systemic Racism

by Jane McBride, pastor of First Congregational Church of MN, UCC in Minneapolis

The culture of white supremacy, like the air we breathe, forms us deeply, and yet also, for the most part, unconsciously. Reading fantasy stories with my daughter, we are awash in symbolism: light and white are good and darkness and blackness are evil. As she makes a poster for her school project on Native peoples, filled with historic photos, I wonder aloud whether she ever learns in school about the Native people who are still here? After a hail storm, the insurance company paid to replace our siding (my spouse and I are white), while our next door neighbors (a BIPOC couple) received no compensation. Read more here about patterns of racial discrimination related to homeowners insurance.

At church, we are beginning to be able to identify ways that our community operates out of the values of white supremacy culture – dualism, scarcity, dominance, secrecy, competition, and disposability.

It’s critical for us to view racism as more than an individual problem that can be solved by the transformation of our personal biases. It is a systemic reality that needs systemic intervention. Those of us serving on the Ad hoc Anti-Racism Committee of the Conference have learned to frame racism as the combination of race prejudice and the misuse of power by systems and institutions.

Racism isn’t my fault or your fault. It is our inheritance. People of all racial identities are enmeshed in a culture that dehumanizes us all. Collectively, we are suffering from a festering spiritual wound that robs us of the abundant life the Creator intends for creation, and that prevents us from being the beloved community Jesus came to embody.

At the same time, white people and institutions bear particular responsibility for transforming this destructive culture. For this reason, the Ad Hoc Anti-Racism Committee is proposing that the Conference form a permanent “Committee to Dismantle White Supremacy.” This committee will make anti-racism work a permanent part of who we are, and will be a catalyst for imagining a new and more life-giving way of being church.

The misuse of power is our inheritance. So is the power of liberation. How will we use our power in this moment?

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023