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Deeper commitment, deeper friendships, from community learning course

Jul 31, 2021
Deeper commitment, deeper friendships, from community learning course

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society
Lead Faculty/Mentor: Jeanais Brodie

Editor’s Note: Robert Butz, who comes from Beloit, Wisconsin, penned a succinct Personal Learning Plan: “My PLP is relatively simple. I want to strengthen my knowledge and ability to be anti-racist, and I want to deepen the relationship I already have with people of color in my life. I do this to honor those I loved in my childhood, who, although of color, were considered family.” We think he succeeded. See what you think, and see how he inspires you to act.

When I signed up for the course Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society, I wanted to broaden my understanding of anti-Black racism so I could apply it to real life situations as opposed to mere intellectual knowledge. The best I can answer whether I’ve accomplished the goal of learning is that I’ve gotten a good boost, but this is a lifelong process.

I’ve gained a much greater understanding and appreciation of the long-standing suffering my African American family has experienced and continues to experience. I know that I need to talk less and listen more when it comes to discussions of race, especially in the company of African American friends. I hope my listening skills are improving.

I am happy to report that I have experienced new feelings and attitudes about the subject matter of the course. My commitment to be of service to the African American community here at home has deepened. I was already serving when the class started, thanks to the advice of Carol Mansour, a Bahá’í, in a Racial Healing, Racial Justice talk she gave some time ago. I took Anti-Black Racism in part to honor Arthur and Shrilda Douglas and Robert and Midge Johnson, whom I considered family as a child, though they were of African American descent. I hope I have done them proud. I am also grateful to others, many of whom have passed on, who have mentored me along my life’s journey. My appreciation for them has deepened immeasurably. That includes mentors and classmates from this class.

It may seem odd to say that my values and beliefs have not changed during the course, but as I said above, what I brought with me to this class just deepened and intensified.

Now that the course has ended, my goal is to deepen the friendships I already have and to increase their number. Since I live in a “mixed” neighborhood it’s a good place to start….



Robert Butz

A Bahá’í  since 1986, I am a father of five in a blended family with six grandchildren and a seventh on the way. I served the Beloit area as a window clerk at the local Post Office until 2009. A double cancer survivor since 2016–19, I continue to volunteer in many capacities: playing tympani with the local college wind ensemble, as a presenter to third graders on behalf of our local library, giving book talks on a specific collection of books once a month during the school year, as a "lunch buddy" to needing kids once a week at a local school. I am also the treasurer for the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Beloit, Wisconsin; have been an assistant to our local Auxiliary Board for the Protection of the Bahá’í Faith; am very involved in Ruhi Institute courses; provide meals to a halfway house for newly released inmates as part of a Bahá’í community project; participate in and hold devotional meetings. The biggest conclusion I drew from surviving the first, nearly fatal bout with cancer was that God has more work for me to do. So I am trying to figure out what it is and to do it!

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