Newsletter

The Oneness of Mankind as the "Pivot"

Dec 30, 2020

Course:  Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. (Fall 2020)
Faculty Mentor: Eleanor Mitten
Lead Faculty: Jeanais Brodie

Editor’s Note:  What follows is Betty Chong-Gerbracht’s Learning Self Assessment. This was her first Wilmette Institute course, which she took as a member of a local study group.


Reflect on what you have learned in this course. Look again at your Personal Learning Plan. Did you accomplish these goals?

I’ve learned so much from the course materials, from Jacqueline Battalora’s “Birth of a White Nation” to the video “The Urgency of Intersectionality,” which brought me to tears. I’m glad we will have access to the course materials for at least a year, giving me a chance for second viewings and readings. Accomplishing my goals will be ongoing beyond this course. 

Share some of the understandings and insights you have gained.  

One insight I gained is that everyone who has lived any length of time in this country, assuredly, has racist behaviors and attitudes to varying degrees. A few examples: For some, it is unconscious. They remain completely blind because they are not in the mainstream; are comfortable with remaining ignorant; do not need to associate, work with, or see Blacks; and therefore have no idea what Blacks continue to endure on a daily basis. What these people know about Blacks is learned primarily from biased media, entertainment, and limited information in history books. Others are moderately blind because they see Blacks, but generally do not interact with them. Whites can avoid Blacks, but Blacks cannot avoid Whites. 

On the far extreme, there are those who are aware of their privilege, attempt to justify it, and may be quick to say they “don’t see color” and “treat everyone the same” when the topic comes up in a conversation. I recognize that these attitudes are meant to block any further uncomfortable discussion about unearned privilege and to maintain the facade of superiority while effectively demoralizing the other.  

A second insight is that this course is the beginning of my learning to speak openly about racism. It is very uncomfortable to acknowledge the privileges one has received at the expense of the person next to you, over the last 400+ years. However, it means death for Blacks if White and White adjacent folks refuse to acknowledge the truth and legislate reparations for their unearned privileges. 

The Prison Industrial Complex and the Prison Pipeline are new concepts to me. The concept of the Prison Pipeline is all-encompassing; it is massive. Looking forward, it is extremely fearful for Blacks, and a devastating path for the future of this country. The increasing number of Black men, women, and youth who are imprisoned, and the number of Black children who are being killed, is inhuman. For Blacks, this trend is not simply a concept, but a reality. Further, allowing the Prison Industrial Complex to exist and grow as a legitimate source of wealth for corporations and the government is literally destroying the moral and spiritual life of this country. It is concerning. Continuing on this trajectory could signal a return to the “slave ship” era.  I wonder now if we ever completely left that era. 

Have you acquired or improved any skills?

I am learning how to have conversations about racism by using a kindly tongue and being calm and informative in the delivery. These conversations require clear thinking to speak what the listener needs to hear and to lead the listener to think and want to hear more. It will be an ongoing process of learning through experience.

Have you experienced any new feelings or attitudes about this subject?

I feel some irritation at not having had this knowledge before now, but I am grateful for the guidance while becoming better informed. 

Has there been a change in your values or beliefs?

There has not been a change in values or beliefs, but a deepening of the Bahá’í principle, “The Oneness of Mankind – the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve.” I have a better appreciation and understanding of how to move forward in the Bahá’í community. 

Now that the course has ended, what are the ways you can apply or use what you have learned in the future? 

My senses have been sufficiently heightened to allow me to see both unconscious and conscious micro-aggressive behaviors in myself and others, and to be ready to confront them when they occur, whether the behavior is directed at me or someone else. My plan is to listen thoughtfully in conversations in search of opportunities to share about racism. 

Contributors

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Betty Chong-Gerbracht

I am a Bahá’í, currently residing in Bothell WA with my husband and some of our children and grandchildren. I was raised in Honolulu HI of Chinese Hawaiian English ancestry, received a degree from the University of Washington and worked primarily in the tech industry until retirement. Currently, I serve on a Local Spiritual Assembly, assist our Auxiliary Board member, teach children's classes, facilitate study circles, and paint in watercolor and pastels.

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