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Learner Awakened to the Need to Act

Jun 1, 2022

Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society (March, 2022)
Faculty Mentor: June Manning Thomas

Editor’s Note: This was Becky’s first course with the Wilmette Institute. She attended all of the Zoom sessions (there were nine) and posted frequently in the forums. To fulfil the requirements for completing the course, Becky reported on two ‘actions’ she has taken towards building a unified society: 1) ongoing conversations about race with a white friend, which started at the time of the murder of George Floyd; and 2) a slide presentation for an interfaith devotional program on Zoom titled “Healing Racism-A Spiritual Perspective.” Below are some comments Becky posted in her Learning Self-Assessment on May 14.


My goal in taking Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society was to gain knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the issue of Anti-Black Racism in this country, so I am able to discuss the issue intelligently and compassionately when presented with opportunities. This class has truly been transformative for me. I am grateful to have this amazing learning opportunity. My sincere thanks to the Wilmette Institute and all of the dedicated faculty who have guided us compassionately within and outside the class. 

This class has been life changing for me, in that my inner activist has been awakened! It has also been an ongoing lesson in humility. I have learned so much about the concept of race and the myriad ways Black people continue to be stigmatized, marginalized, and subjugated in the United States. I am grateful to my mentor and fellow learners for the opportunity to learn. My mind has been so expanded by everything I have learned. I still have so much to learn, so many books I want/need to read!

One objective of my Personal Learning Plan was to “listen compassionately and sincerely to the views and experiences of my fellow learners.” I have learned much from others’ experiences and have been challenged to examine other perspectives. I also feel a compulsion to share that knowledge whenever possible. I have already begun to have some very rich discussions about race with friends and associates. In this regard, I have scheduled a special presentation at our weekly family zoom session to encourage discussion. I have also been asked to put together a devotional program on race at our regular monthly interfaith devotional in June. I have been writing down all the books that have been recommended during study groups and class, in addition to the excellent bibliography in the final unit of this course.

Through the course, I have come to understand that racism is a spiritual sickness that affects our whole society, indeed the planet, and that we ALL suffer and pay the price of racism. I understand that, in reality, Black women, men, and children are still enslaved by the beliefs and greed of a few white, privileged men who have influenced the institutions and laws in this country in accordance with their own narrow beliefs. Additionally, the unit on the prison industrial complex sickened me, to know the effects on the community as a whole of having huge numbers of able-bodied, talented, and capable men being incarcerated for often minor charges. I had not realized the continuing impact on their lives, limiting their ability to contribute to society or provide for their families. We all lose!

As a result of taking this course, my core beliefs about the oneness of mankind have not changed. But I now feel the moral imperative to ACT upon my beliefs, and not be a silent bystander.

Contributors

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Becky Figgins (Green River, Wyoming)

I have been a Bahá’í for a little more than 50 years. My family and I had the bounty of pioneering in Malawi and Zimbabwe for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong learner, and love learning new things. I am a retired early childhood teacher, in the special education field.

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