Challenging Racial Inequalities

by Susan Sheridan Tucker

Westminster adopted the Hope for the World Statement some years ago. It says, “To achieve a just community we must engage in courageous acts to transform social systems and relationships among people, challenge inequities that deny the fullness of life to some and to love our neighbor.”

These words resonate deeply within me and I am trying my best to live them out. Over the years, I have advocated for affordable housing, environmental protection and defending voting rights. Yet recently, conversations and light bulb moments have compelled me to take action to try to dismantle systemic racism, long embedded in our socioeconomic policies and which I have benefited from as a white privileged woman.

Over the last 26 years, my family and I have participated in many social justice activities. Our daughters have had their worldviews shaped by Westminster mission trips and trips to Cuba. So much so, that Michaela, our youngest daughter, became a peer counselor for multicultural education during college, where she would engage her peers to recognize their implicit biases, privilege and, in some ways, the embedded racist policies.

Michaela inspired me to do more reading and reflecting, grappling with my lack of cultural competency and the thinking that is so deeply embedded and mostly unconscious. I began to acknowledge that while I thought I was trying to live out a just life, I really hadn’t begun to do the hard work that could lead to transforming social systems. I’d like to think it was the Holy Spirit finally knocking me in the head, calling me to pay attention, connect all the dots and understand why the world is the way it is. As a self-professed policy wonk, a trained city planner and one who works in the nonprofit realm, I know that policies were shaped to oppress whole groups of people.  At times I have advocated changing such policies, but always within my comfort zone, on my terms; truly evidence of someone who enjoys privilege.

I joined Westminster’s Racial Justice Work Group, whose members are fed up with the increasing polarization of our national politics, and appalled by Minnesota’s dismal ranking of having the worst gap in education and economic equity between whites and people of color. We believe as Christians we must change the status quo. We sponsor Race and Grace Dialogues to invite us to engage in understanding the impacts of white privilege and learning to engage in difficult conversations that will lead to actions to help transform racist systems.

Jesus asks us to love our neighbor. This vision is simple, yet needs fleshing out. As the  PCUSA Book of Confessions states “God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ and the mission of reconciliation to which Christ has called his church, are at the heart of the gospel in any age.” I take these words to heart. This is our work as a people and a church. This is why I continue to be here at Westminster and share time and modest treasure.

Stewardship Sunday is when we make our financial support decisions for the following year.  This year it’s November 18, and in preparation, I ask each of you to search your hearts and think about the ways in which you can give of your time and treasure to support and transform our community into a just one. Thanks be to God.