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Recognizing systems of power and privilege that perpetuate racism

Big Tent workshop speaks to Presbyterian effort to dismantle racism

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

Participants in the Disrupting Racism workshop at Big Tent 2017 engage in one-on-one discussions. (Photo by Bella Hobson)

ST. LOUIS – Dismantling racism was a popular topic at Big Tent 2017. The workshop Disrupting Racism: Building the Intercultural Community was attended by 50 percent more people than had registered.

Led by the Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, associate professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion, and the Rev. Mark Koenig, coordinator for Racial Justice for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the workshop helped participants better understand the thinking and behaviors that lead to systemic and structural racism.

“Racism is a structure and a system,” Koenig said. He went on to point out the systems of power and privilege and the difference of opportunities presented to whites, blacks and other people of color that continue to perpetuate racism.

Kim pointed out that in the U.S., racism is primarily relegated to black and white races. However, Kim said the intersectionality of race, sex, oppression and privilege contribute to racism.

Kim spoke of her experience with racism as an Asian woman. She also discussed the stereotypes associated with Asians in the U.S., such as Asians being the “model minority” because of their work ethics and the “honorific white myth” that Asians are more like “whites.”

Koenig said that during the Dismantling Racism workshops he and others facilitate throughout the church, they encourage attendees to gain insights into their personal biases. He said, “The point of learning about implicit bias is not to shame or make us feel bad or guilty but to make us aware of those biases and to help us make changes so we can be more like Jesus.”

The workshop provided possible next steps on the antiracism journey. They included:

  • Education
  • Advocacy
  • Organizing and Witness

For more information and resources, visit the PC(USA) website Facing Racism: A Vision of the Intercultural Community Churchwide Antiracism Policy, or go to facing-racism.pcusa.org.


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