Beginning Conversations about Race with Youth
Sheila Schuh, Director of Religious Education at First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY recently told us about an innovative idea to bring people together across congregations to start a dialogue about racial justice. The youth in your congregation could be a catalyst for a multigenerational conversation to explore their and their neighbors’ identities and experiences with racism.
Here’s what Sheila has to say about this youth group experience:
On a Sunday in November, First Unitarian Church of Rochester hosted youth groups from ten area churches in a viewing of I’m Not Racist… Am I? If you haven’t seen it yet, the film is a feature documentary engaging 12 teenagers from New York City to come together for one school year to talk about race and privilege in a series of workshops and in conversations with friends and family members.
The film is part of a larger initiative – Deconstructing Race – developed by The Calhoun School to create a multimedia platform to get young people, their teachers and their families talking – and doing something – about structural systemic racism.”
Here’s what some of the First Unitarian youth said after the viewing and dialogue:
My definition of racism changed from being a conscious decision to discriminate to being an unconscious compliance with a system of oppression. I have realized how lucky I am to have grown up being of a race that is not discriminated against.”
Nothing really hit me as a surprise. I am more aware though about how the “N” word has lost its meaning and that is definitely not a good thing, because it has lost the power of the history of oppression it carries.”
I learned that the definition of racism I have known of racism is wrong (because it is incomplete – ed.). It (racism) is also related to a group and their power, not the just individual’s power. All white people (who don’t act for racial justice) are racists because they are of the group that in our society has the most power.”
The film taught me to pay attention to the subliminal effects of racism in society’s systems.”
Learn more about bringing the conversation to your congregation. Have a conversation with your religious educator, minister, social justice ministries and pastoral care team to discuss how best to support this conversation. Consider using this movie screening as a companion to Be the Change! curriculum from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), which gives youth a starting place for discussions about the role of race, identity and justice in living out their faith. And please let us know about your experience!