Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Crossroads defines themselves as an organization that is committed to dismantling systemic racism. This weekend they shared many ideas with our presbytery. One particular concept stood out for me, the concept of Courageous Space.
Courageous space differs from safe space. Safe space was originally created so that marginalized people could find a place to go and not experience hate speech, or violent rhetoric. It was a place on university campuses and in other institutions where it was alright to talk about being LGBT, without experiencing push back. While serving at McCormick, I remember making my office a safe space, and putting a sticker on the door to let the student body and staff know. Students and staff felt comfortable “coming out” to me in my office.
The idea of safe space has been extended beyond members of the LGBTQ community, to include anyone who wants to express their opinion and not feel pushed back upon. Mostly this is good. But there are some conversations that require rebuttal in order to move the conversation forward.
Race and racism is one of those conversations.
When we talk about race, there is often emotion involved. There is also an unwillingness to talk about it. Crossroads taught us that it takes courage for people of color to stay in a white institution and talk about race. It also takes courage for white people to stay in conversations on race and not back out. These conversations are often infused with anger, guilt, and discomfort. This is why I really appreciate everyone who came out and engaged in these difficult conversations on Friday and Saturday.
The challenge is for the presbytery to create space where courageous conversations can happen. These are conversations where people share respect, listen to understand, make room for diverse voices, and trust ambiguity.
Courageous conversations allow emotions, but also create space to check in with one another, in order to keep one another talking and sharing. Checking in is huge! It shows commitment and care for one another. It shows sensitivity about what is said, and how it is being perceived. Checking in means we are all in this together.
Our presbytery is 91% white. Over 50% of our congregations do not have any people of color in their pews on Sunday. This is not a criticism, just a fact. Crossroads taught us that majority white congregations do not have to talk about race. The topic just doesn’t have to come up. Even still, if the members have TV, or drive outside of their neighborhoods, they are being racialized, forming opinions, and have questions. Perhaps the presbytery can be a place where these members can step out of their local congregation and enter a courageous space on race. Let’s try it and see what happens!
Rev. Craig M. Howard