This past week at Covenant, the much needed conversation on race received new life as several of our sisters in Christ came and shared some of their experience over the past years. Christina Edmondson, Dean of Intercultural Student Development at Calvin College, and Michelle Higgins, Director of Worship and Outreach at South City Church in St. Louis, both spoke passionately this week in Chapel about racial issues in the Christian community.
Conversations have been sparked, some of which have been helpful and others of which have not. While the administration has been doing a thorough job of attempting to bring these conversations to the forefront of students’ minds, we must still deal with racism across campus and our failure—as a Christian community—to recognize the problems racism creates.
Many have felt that white privilege is not an issue, and that white privilege is not really prevalent on Covenant’s campus. The problem with this is that the students who fail to see the white supremacy tend to be… white. If you do not come to these conversations with an open mind and recognize that hearing these words may be painful, you will not see that truth is being spoken and you may only be hurting yourself by not listening to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are being told repeatedly by an entire portion of the country’s population that oppression is a problem; we should listen and not get defensive or attempt to dismiss the apparent problem as imaginary. Being told that you are racist, being called out for being part of the issue of white privilege, and being put in an uncomfortable or convicting position is just that: uncomfortable. But nothing noteworthy ever changed without painful effort and conviction on the parts of all involved.
It is disappointing to hear students say they wish that they had used their chapel skip for Michelle Higgins’ story in Friday’s chapel. This means that convicting words were spoken, but many students did not receive them. It is disappointing when healthy conversations between students are dismissed to the point that students feel like they have not been heard. There needs to be a time to listen, and it is painful when you feel like your voice is unheard.
We must learn to listen to the voices of those who have been voiceless for so long. We must learn to recognize that there is so much pain in the hearts of those who are shut down or cut off. Only then will we be able to heal some of the pain and take steps toward reconciliation.
On the other hand, the attendance for the race card project was encouraging. While the expected attendance numbered 50, 120 students showed up without expecting affirmation or extra credit. Dr. Weichbrodt was able to spark some healthy discussion on the “race cards”— cards each with six words written on them by someone sharing their thoughts and experiences concerning race. For nearly two hours, the 120 students asked questions of each other, listening and working to understand differences in opinion and outlook.
Dr. Weichbrodt also facilitated a five-person panel discussion last Thursday, November 16, in Sanderson Hall. Christina Edmondson, Joan Nabors, Alicia Jackson, Ekemini Uwan, and Michelle Higgins took turns sharing some of their personal stories and voicing a desire to recognize our brokenness and our wrongs, take steps to reverse our wrongs, and take steps forward into communion. I admit I am human; my motivations and words are tainted: “LORD, reveal to me the ways I hate my neighbor. By your power, help me to love them.” When we ask questions—and we must ask questions—we must think first whether what we are asking is loving and helpful.
Everyone has a story; we as humans, and especially as Christians, cannot invalidate that. Whatever stance one takes, we must all make an effort to listen to one another in love because we are called as members of the Body. However, it does not stop at listening. You must be willing to humbly reevaluate your stance, and work towards justice as the Body of Christ.