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03/08/2016

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Parker Loesch

Thanks Dr. Westfield for this article. The great challenge, as a white anti-racist male, within a diverse classroom is always being aware of my social location. At the same time, always being honest about this history of my body as it relates to other bodies. Yet even while seeking a constant state of awareness of social hierarchies as a student i must always remember that even when these social maladies of injustice do not fill i am still responsible. So your article is helpful as I am reminded that the work to be done is to “differentiate between white people and the ideology of white supremacy.” Being able to differentiate has allows me to enter into my world full family, and friends, who don’t even know they are wearing these social maladies garment, and witness to them a spirit of anti-racism rhetoric. This has allow me to engage in conversation that help them move from a state of social domination to a place of critical reflection and transformation. (Granted sometimes it is not that simple and I am reject). Yet it is my conviction, as white anti-racist male, that by clarifying my social location that I might be able to witness to a greater truth as the one up front (of the classroom) and as the student in the classroom. Thanks again.

Emmanuel Philor

Dr. Westfield, I can truly say that this article speaks to me, personally. Coming from the context of an African-American Male who has witnessed injustice to others who look like me, (and often wonder will this happen to me) I take it personal when I see injustice. Learning in a diverse classroom setting gives a different vantage point for others to hear from. In my opinion, to enhance the conversation/discussion its best that we share what we take personal. I do believe that professional therapy may serve as a benefit to students but I think it is healthier for the student to affect what hurts them personally until those around them become socially aware of the pain.

Melaine Rochford

Dr. Westfield this is a very poignant post for me personally. All throughout my seminary journey I have had to sit with thoughts, theologies, and ideas that have not stood the test of time or the test of seminary. I have learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s difficult to discuss issues of racism, sexism and classism. It is hard to discuss issues of privilege. However, learning to wrestle with these issues could potentially produce new ways of seeing and experiencing the world around us. Wrestling in the classroom with others, when done in an honest and authentic way, though challenging can bring about healing. Thank you for sharing your experience with your father. It adds such a personal touch to these blog entries.

Melaine Rochford

Parker Loesch, I think you are brave for attempting to share anti-racism rhetoric with those family members and friends that are dear to you. I'm sure that must not be easy. I have found that rejection is sometimes a part of the process when speaking truth. I pray we can all find transformation in the difficult conversations we have.

Angel Abakah

Thank you very much Dr. Westfield! This article has really made me think more deeply. Coming from an African background which has a history of slavery and colonialization, I understand the subject of white supremacy and domination. But I think we as students should be able to move from hiding behind the reality of the issues of racism, classism and other injustices done to the minority or the "voiceless" in the society and freely express ourselves in ways that expose the structural or the systemic evil. When we always address issues from the perspective of "personal," though it's good but we either leave a major truth or sometimes distort the rationale behind our expression. But thank you once again for this article.

Angel Abakah

And I think I agree with you, Emmanuel; that you have witnessed done to others who look like you. That's very true, and what we all need to understand is that what we tolerate we cannot confront, and what we don't confront we cannot be freed from. In Dr. King's letter from Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963, he said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Meaning, it does not matter who or where it happens we all have a share in the pain. Therefore it's our radical fight for freedom.

Emmanuel Philor

I agree with you Melaine. Seminary has definitely taught me how to be comfortable in the place where I am uncomfortable. My question then become if I am called to speak out to injustice every where why am I should get comfortable here? The issues that we as the leaders of the church and world face in the classroom often reflect what we will speak out to later on.

Peter Mantell

For many years, I believed that racism was dying and that we would see an end to it within my lifetime. I say this because for all of my life, I had never experienced racism from a standpoint of the systemic problem that exists. I only knew from an individual (my own) standpoint. I never saw people denied employment because of race because the people I'd worked for over the years only wanted to hire those that will do the best work possible, race notwithstanding. I've seen plenty of people from all races and walks of life promoted or given positions of responsibility because they did the best work. I've worked for two different companies that had African American CEOs. So, from my perspective, racism was dying.

But what I did NOT see or understand was systemic racism. As you state, "'...(this) is not about you – personally' when, for so many, this is the first or one of the first conversations which provides information about the workings of systemic oppression." This is why I believe so many people, like me, deny that racism is a problem in this country... because they simply don't see it. Like me, they see people of all races working in diverse environments and believe that the problems are all but solved. Systemic racism and oppression is vastly different from the racism of individuals. I only see it because I finally left my old world and came into this one in which this reality is taught. And I sincerely believe that if my former colleagues could somehow have their eyes opened, they would see it too. I still believe that it can be defeated within my lifetime; I'm just going to have to live longer than I anticipated!

Peter Mantell

Emmanuel, I agree with your statement that "In my opinion, to enhance the conversation/discussion it's best that we share what we take personal." It is one thing to learn the facts about racism. It is quite another to be able to see and count the cost. One of the things about my seminary education that has been so valuable is the fact that I have been afforded to opportunity to see the vulnerabilities of others in such a profound and personal way. Thank you for sharing yours.

Michael Callahan

I was that student in psych class who became convinced that I had every illness we discussed. I didn't think much of the behavior, more than trying to calm myself by saying that this is what everyone thinks. Yet I have discovered that not everyone looks inwardly and considers their identity fully. That is a frightening endeavor and I believe that most are satisfied with surface level understandings of the self and so, when they are confronted with the possibility that they are not who they have chosen to believe they are, it angers them. Brick by brick, walls are built to protect themselves from the words of others and also make it impossible to communicate. This defensive reaction is pretty normal even if you take time to question your identity, but it takes a conscious effort to overcome it. I believe tone and presentation make all the difference in drawing students into reflection. Information presented without direct accusation starts the thought process. From there it is necessary for students to dwell in their feelings and perhaps the best thing a professor can do at this point is to reassure students that while the sins of the past may impact the future, they do not decide who we can be now.

Michael Callahan

Melaine, your post reminds me of that first bib lit class I took here. All of us in that class were more than distraught as we had to face these ideas about what was fact and what was fiction in the bible and it felt like a personal attack on our faith. Little did I know that this was just a precursor to the difficulty of the studies to come. I believe you're right about the potential for healing to happen in the classroom and there is a an awakening that can happen as we all work through the struggle together.

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