A few weeks ago Professor Weichbrodt gave people a chance to write, in six words or less, their feelings and experiences with race. People then had the chance to come together and talk to one another, in small groups, about six pre-selected cards.
I was skeptical when I heard this was happening. As a Community Development major it is easy to be doubtful of a bunch of majority white, middle class college students talking about their feelings on race. However, in the end I thought it would be best to go and see what all the excitement was about.
From the start, the experience was refreshing. Every instruction was direct and intentional, focused on creating a safe space for all who were to partake in the discussion. First, Dr. Weichbrodt began by laying out clearly what the format and time limits would look like. Everyone was to be split into groups of five or six. They would discuss what they thought about each card that was presented to them.
Each card was to be discussed for only a few minutes, the beginning of which two people would talk about how they resonate with what was written on the card, then some others in the group would give differing reactions to the card, and then the discussion would open up till it was time for the next card to be examined. This outline for discussion was stressed throughout the night so that everyone felt safe and was heard.
This may seem like common courtesy, and it is. However, this courtesy is often trampled upon when it comes to such difficult topics. People are emotionally charged, and often rightly so. Which is why these guidelines for the discussions were so important. In order to have a fruitful discussion, people must be willing to give up their independent freedom.
The ultimate goal of the discussions was not to bring a newfound light to racial reconciliation. The goal was to simply to cultivate more productive conversations between people. It was a small step, but if racial reconciliation is going to be a part of our culture, both at Covenant and throughout our country, we must move slowly, yet faithfully so that we can move together to create change.
The first step in creating change is changing how we interact with each other. This was the step that Professor Weichbrodt had the wisdom and clarity to share with us that night. Events like this must become more of a staple at Covenant if we want to continue to cultivate a faithful longing to be more united with the body of Christ. Pushing ourselves to communicate with each other, in a Christ-like way, to deal with these hard topics, is the only way that any real change will occur.
As students, we cannot rely on chapel talks and panels to create change in our community. We must be willing to act and sacrifice some of our comfort for the sake of our family in Christ. We are called to be salt and light in the world, but we cannot shine brightly if, in our fear or disinterest, we deny the unity that we have in Christ.