Monday, October 19, 2009
RACISM: Poison in the cookies of our culture
Up earlier than I'm used to on a Monday (MUCH earlier!) to attend the YWCA "Women for Racial Justice" Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. (yes, that's BE there at 7:30 a.m.!) I headed off to the Pasadena Hilton wondering why I'd thought Ann Erdman's kind offer to join her table of women bloggers was an offer I couldn't refuse.
Turns out, I was very glad I didn't. Refuse.
Really. What's not to be inspired about by a banquet hall packed with fabulous people (mostly women!) celebrating an organization with a Mission Statement "dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all." (Did I mention it started at 7:30 a.m.?)
We honored Marge Wyatt for decades as a "constant voice for racial justice" here in Pasadena -- and some gasped in disbelief as Marge recounted "taking on a conservative school board back when they tried to ban books about the Civil Rights movement."
And I thought about the story about the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who denied marriage licenses to interracial couples. Not in 1965. Last week!
We heard inspiring words from Dr. Joy DeGruy, whose book -- "Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome" -- frames what she calls "America's enduring injury" as the "consequence of multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel slavery."
"There's poison in the cookies of our culture," she told the packed banquet room ... describing that poison as "Slavery that was predicated on the belief that African Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites, followed by institutionalized racism which continues to perpetuate injury."
"Healing must occur on multiple levels," says Dr. DeGruy on her website, "because the injury occurred on multiple levels. We begin by simply telling the truth."
So I am very glad I got up much earlier than usual on this Monday morning. Because the truth is that racism -- the poison in the cookies of our culture -- poisons ALL of us. And it challenges all of us to call this nation to its best "liberty and justice for all" self. And 7:30 a.m. isn't a minute too early to be up and about that important work. Even on a Monday!