Mennonite World Review LogoMennonite World Review

Last updated March 03.

March 3, 2014 issue

Call for conversation

By John Powell

My congregation planned a worship service with a conversation on race. It was a revealing encounter for many present.

Powell

Powell

Being the only African-American in the congregation, I and a white member sat up front during the children’s time. The storyteller asked them about similarities and differences between us. Among the numerous differences named, there was only one matter-of-fact reference to skin color. After church, several members expressed a desire to continue the conversation with children and adults.

Do these children’s responses reflect the thoughts of children in society generally? No! I think these children’s parents are trying to teach them to value everyone, regardless of race.

My view was affirmed by a person struggling to find a spiritual community. We talked about race and its impact on children, and I brought up the worship service. He said, “Was this in a Mennonite church? From my experience, Mennonites teach their children how to love and respect everyone.”

So, have we done enough?

Race is a dominate force in America. Historian Robin D.O. Kelley says, “Racism is not about how you look, it’s about how people assign meaning to how you look.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama dealt with racism. There was a call for a national conversation on race. It never happened. The desire for political change persuaded reluctant whites to say, “I’ll vote for him. He’s half white.”

A 2012 survey on racial attitudes showed 51 percent of Americans express explicit anti-black attitudes. A similar 2011 survey revealed 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes.

These statistics are revealing but not surprising. While no racial attitude tests have been conducted in Mennonite communities and congregations, several friends have suggested these statistics probably represent the attitudes of Mennonite communities, too.

That’s hard for me to believe. We place a high value on being an antiracist denomination. Many people have participated in antiracism training and engaged in racial reconciliation endeavors. If our children are representative of the attitudes of Mennonite parents, we are headed toward racial reconciliation.

continued on next page »

Comment on the article Call for conversation

Please keep comments civil. MWR editors reserve the right to remove any comment. When posting a comment, you agree to the MWR Comments Policy. Name and comment will be posted; commenters are strongly encouraged to give their full name. Email address is for follow-up only and will not be made public.

  • HTML tags are not permitted in comments and will be removed. Markdown syntax may be used for emphasis, blockquotes and links.

MWR Classifieds

Job listings and other offerings

This Week’s Front Page

image of March 17, 2014 front page Download a PDF version of page one of MWR's March 17, 2014 print edition.

© 2012, Mennonite World Review Inc. | All rights reserved.

129 W 6th St Newton KS 67114 | 800-424-0178 | For reprints, write editor (at) mennoworld.org

Made with Django. thanks to dirt circle. icons by famfamfam.

Loading