Where Has White Guilt Led Me?
BY BETSY DISHAROON, SEPTEMBER 2022
I am a Southern gal by birth. These are strong roots. I am proud of their many facets: the warm hospitality and friendliness, the deep sense of family and rootedness, my family history of strong women, and many more. But I am not proud of the cultural history of slavery of the past and the racism which still exists. Even though at times I understand, yet don't condone, how open the Southern version of racism is compared to New England’s subversive form.
My lack of pride is deep and actually is overwhelmed by guilt and perhaps shame. Psychologists prefer to distinguish between these two emotions with shame being the more unpleasant feeling of “I am bad” and guilt being behavior related such as “I have done something bad.” Distinguishing the two can be difficult but this writing shares what these emotions plant in my psyche.
Shame about my culture of origin has led me to first cringe and claim “I did not own slaves” and then, on the other hand, be proud my family fought for the integration movement in our school system. So both negative (avoidance) and positive (motivation) mechanisms have occurred simultaneously. Whereas, guilt has raised its ugly head related to my White privilege and what a “White life” I have led for six decades.
All of these emotions are strong motivators and act as guideposts to direct my actions and focus. Awareness and a sense of familiarity with these emotions came in two stages. The first happened when I found myself in a meditation group in which I was one of only two white middle class participants. The remaining members were from marginalized populations due to their color, class and/or ethnicity. My white privilege slapped me in the face! Guilt regarding my belated awakening was the prominent reaction. It took me more than fifty years to find myself becoming close with people so different from myself and yet the same in so many ways. Frequently I questioned my behaviors or attitudes, attempting to check my privilege at the door. I cannot say it was easy or consistently successful but I can say it was overall a delicious environment to experience.
This first stage being birthed in this meditation group was likely a substantial motivator to join Courageous Conversations Toward Racial Justice-Milton/Mattapan several years later; thus, entrance to stage two of awareness.
Many phases of challenge came next. My perfectionism shone brightly and required curbing often. Admitting “I don’t know” took humility. Being overly concerned about offending others prevented honesty and many other discomforts. All of these, and others, were steps toward growth but often required contortions of the ego. Revisiting these stages still occurs today and during these more recent times the presence of a strong sense of connection and support from my fellow travelers of all races and ethnicities always shines through. The sense of belonging to a group who diligently questions, discusses, explores feelings, motivations, biases, and behaviors is so affirming and strengthening. Authenticity is a goal-only sometimes reached but always a goal.
Sociologists and psychologists claim guilt can be a motivator while shame leads to withdrawal and negation. Applying this, the conclusion can be made that my guilt is stronger than my shame. If my guilt is my motivator then it is cherished for leading me on this path of expanding my self awareness, my community awareness, and connection with many others whom I am profoundly grateful to have in my life.
Black History Month
BY KAREN GROCE-HORAN, FEBRUARY 2022
February begins amidst crisis and concern in our country. The looming and pronounced threats to our very democracy are evident in voting rights at risk nationwide, challenges to women’s right to choose, threats on people’s very lives due to politics and position and the troubling findings of the Jan.6th commission.
This leaves me wondering how we are regressing back to troubling times, and I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s quote - “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
It stresses the importance of knowing our history and understanding that we have been taught a history with gaps and grave omissions. This is why it is imperative for us to re-educate ourselves about those missing pieces of history. The current strife related to Critical Race Theory, which is mostly taught in college and law school, not K-12, is a confrontation to truth telling about our history.
This February, as focus turns to Black History month, I implore us to first, not limit this learning to one month, and secondly to dig deep to find those truths and figures in history that weren’t included in our textbooks of last century.
Explore the history of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, which much like Black Wallstreet has not been included in our books and history lessons. Learn the troubling truths of Black suffrage, voting rights and voter suppression.
Isn’t it startling that Black women did not have the right to vote until 1965? My Black mother didn’t have the right to exercise her political will until she was 34, my grandmother was 61. This to me puts squarely into context the very clear understanding of what’s at stake with the current struggle to pass voter rights legislation ensuring equity and access in voting. Learn about current tactics from this link on digital voting rights suppression.
Discover the history of little-known figures like Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old who 9 months prior to Ms. Parks, was arrested in the same Birmingham, AL for refusing to give up her seat on the bus and Phillis Wheatley, enslaved and sold on a Boston dock, 7 years of age and near death after the harrowing middle passage.
Discover hidden figures like Ralph Bunche, first Black American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, prior to Dr. MLK Jr. and Howard Thurman, an author, philosopher, theologian, and mentor of the great Dr. King.
Never before has the ease and access to learn about American and Black History been greater. Avail yourself of the resources and deepen learning and understanding so that our democracy is not doomed to the failures of our history. Join us on the journey and learn the truth about history!
Happy Lunar New Year!
BY EVA CHOW, FEBRUARY 2022
February 1st launched the start of the Lunar New Year, and with that, 15 days of celebration and the holiday spirit. Lunar New Year has been celebrated in many Asian countries for centuries - traditions differ throughout cultures, ranging from the food you eat to the superstitions you follow. No matter what's on your New Year's dinner table, this is a time for family and friends to gather, wishing each other good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
In the United States, the ongoing pandemic and spikes in Asian hate have made this Lunar New Year feel especially renewing. The holiday is a good reminder for us all to rest and recharge with our loved ones so that we have the energy and encouragement for all that's to come. Being together (safely!) in community is just as important as the work ahead.
Happy Lunar New Year, and wishing you all well!
CCTRJ in the Milton Times Change Makers Column
BY REV. LISA WARD, SEPTEMBER 2021
It is an honor to be asked to share a bit about Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice (CCTRJ) in this month’s Milton Change Makers column. Entering our sixth year of reaching out and reaching in to deepen our understanding and widen our advocacy, it is uplifting to share this journey with other “change makers”.
We have come to know, in profound and painful ways during this global pandemic, that we are intricately connected to one another; what Martin Luther King, Jr. named “an inescapable network of mutuality.”
This new and ancient learning can strengthen our way of being with one another, especially towards issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Many advocates have been able to see anew the places of dysfunction, inequity and negligence that keep us from thriving as a vibrantly diverse, color rich society.
CCTRJ strives to work together to reveal inequity, uplift diversity and address shifts needed for true inclusion. As stated in our mission statement: “Through dialogues, workshops, events, study groups, and collaborations on race and privilege, we hope to build a movement in which we hold ourselves and one another accountable to understanding and transforming deep rooted attitudes and behaviors in order to end systems of white supremacy culture and racism, recognizing the intersectionality of other social oppressions.”
This comes through building relationships and strengthening mutuality. It comes from the humility of recognizing that we cannot fully know what transformation will look like, yet having the courage to walk together into the unknown. It comes from deepening in care of one another and sharing our stories to broaden understanding. It comes from showing up, again and again, to recognize that we are, indeed, intricately connected.
Our group has been going through our own learning, growing and discovery around how to build capacity with a team of volunteers, many who work full time in other capacities. We have been evaluating how to go forward in a way that maintains a steady presence and strengthens resilience. Stay tuned for further developments.
Our next time to offer opportunities for conversation is on Family Day at the Eustis Estate, October 2. Drop by anytime between 10 am – 2 pm. This is a joint effort in collaboration with Quincy for Transformative Change and Celebrate Milton. Powerful, stunning works of art are displayed throughout the grounds, lending themselves to experiences of insight and learning.
CCTRJ Milton/Mattapan welcomes your stories, insights, vision and readiness for racial justice. This is a lifelong path that we can travel with and for each other. Please do visit our website. There you can sign up for our newsletter. Come expand community with us, for in the words of Audre Lorde: “Without community, there is no liberation.”
Our own Karen Groce Horan presents her occasional blog
BY KAREN GROCE HORAN, FEBRUARY 2021
I, Karen Groce Horan, am committing to live this February '21, not Black History month but Black History IS American History Month in an altogether new way. When I contemplated writing this my first official blog post, I had a different plan in mind. As I meditated on it, my thoughts took a whole new surprising direction. As a Black woman with West Indian and African American roots, I have lived a life where I did not see my story in the K-12 history (His-Story) books I was educated in, for history has been written by the victors. Upon realizing and reconciling this, somewhere in my early 20's, I committed to a journey of learning, growing, understanding, and knowing the history of my ancestry, on whose shoulders I stand. On whose very resilience and strength my own existence is founded and built.
So how will this month of February this year of 2021 be different for me? I am going to challenge myself to live outside my comfort zone and expand beyond my echo chamber. This YouTube video Black man under cover got me thinking. It also reminds me of the movie BlacKkKlansman based on the life of police officer Ron Stallworth. So while I continue the internal work to learn and grow in my understanding of history, I will also seek resources that stretch me, that perhaps challenge my ability to find a lens into that far other side of the spectrum of my anti-racism perspective. My goal is perhaps to find a better understanding of the very racist views and perhaps why there are people that hold true to mistruths about race based constructs. My goal is to bring change and we cannot change what we don't understand.
What will I find, what might I discover, what will I share and discuss with others? Will it bring reconciliation with an older brother, Black with skin a rich, deep hue of brown similar to mine, whose political views couldn't be further from my own; given all that we have lived, witnessed, experienced and been especially astounded by in the months and years leading up to Jan. 6, 2021? These are the perspectives I hope to explore, and learn more about. I certainly don't expect it to cause any great shift in my views, thoughts or opinions. I just hope it can shed light - the light that Amanda Gorman '21 inaugural poet, first Youth Poet Laureate speaks of in her poem The Hill We Climb - "For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it."
This February, the month I will now call Black History IS American History Month, may we all be brave enough to be it and see it; and may we find truth and reconciliation on this journey to justice. Join us on this journey, share resources with others and decide what action you can take to bring change and make a difference to dismantle racism and the systems that continue to treat people differently depending on the race they happened to be born into.
Karen Groce-Horan is Co-Founder and Exec. Director of CCTRJ-MIlton Mattapan and during the week serves as Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at United Way Mass Bay.
Some resources I will be spending time with-