Close Encounters

By Hilary Allen

The following is excerpted from content presented as part of the “Staying the Course” workshop at the New Day Rising Conference in February 2021. The full workshop is available to conference registrants through Whova and to new participants who enroll in the UULI course.

We have learned through our work in congregations that there are often common expressions of pushback or resistance when dismantling white supremacy. We are told things like:

  • In order for us to really make progress, everyone in the congregation needs to take the same training, or,
  • We can’t do this work on our own, we need to hire a consultant to lead us, or,
  • Our activism on climate change really needs to take precedence, or,
  • All of our attention needs to be going to our capital campaign or stewardship drive, or,
  • Racism will be here forever so all of these efforts are really a waste of time, or,
  • It’s hard enough getting folks to do things as it is, we can’t add one more thing!

A lot of these expressions are really concerns about resources — access to and amounts of resources in the form of people, time, money, expertise. Even courage or will.

To be clear, there’s a direct relationship between resources and culture. Postures about resources, or even sensibilities of abundance and scarcity, are culturally specific.

We also know that dynamics like either/or thinking, quantity over quality, or right to comfort are also culturally specific — specifically characteristics of white supremacy culture.

a black person facing away from camera holding a sign which reads, "It is a privilege to educate yourself about racism rather than experiencing it!"

So, the invitation, when we find ourselves coming up against resistance or pushback, is to get curious about how we might be coming up against white supremacy.

We have to assume that if we are engaged in dismantling white supremacy, then we will have to encounter it along the way. It seems obvious, but often we forget: Dismantling white supremacy means we will encounter it.

That’s just the work revealing itself to us.


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