On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, Denver Presbyterian Church hosted a panel discussion, asking questions like:
- If we are a post-racial society, why are racial inequality and division so stubbornly persistent?
- Why are the experiences of white and black Americans so different?
- How can you help Denver to become a more racially just and harmonious city?
We also fielded questions from the audience.
The free event was held at Shorter AME Church at the intersection of MLK Blvd. and Colorado Blvd. The event was open to the community and sold out, with over 150 people in attendance.
Our panelists, Lewis Brown, Antwan Jefferson, and Michelle Warren offered wise, humble, nuanced thoughts on the multi-faceted, many-layered issue of systemic racism in America, and touched on other matters of injustice that are inexorably intertwined.
LISTEN TO THE AUDIO
Thank you to everyone who came and participated in this conversation! If you were in attendance or listened to the audio, please help us by completing a 3-question survey. The survey will help us keep the conversation going, fuel more ideas for future discussions, and help us improve these events.
There were so many audience questions texted in, we couldn't get to them all! Below are the questions we weren't able to respond to.
- What was your first personal experience of racism and/or what was your most recent personal experience of racism?
- I would love some practical tips on beneficial ways to reach out to neighbors of a different race. Is it weird if I just knock on their door and invite them to dinner?
- Do you believe that racial injustice and division in the USA is historically or globally unique, or is it essentially similar to other divisions around the world, such as the Indian caste system, extreme nationalism in Europe, etc?
- With the recent Trump election, it feels like white Christians in America are actively moving away from racial reconciliation rather than toward it. How can the church be empowered in this area when many of its members and prominent leaders seem to support a political movement that is based at least in part on racist ideas?
- All three panelists used the term “reconciliation”. How is this defined?
- If racism manifests through systems, how can we as individuals alter the processes?
- Can you speak to the idea of color blindness? How do we move past the idea of race while respecting peoples of color and their experiences?
- What can I (we) do beyond just caring intentionally for those that are different or marginalized around me? How does one seek out more active approaches? Or is caring for neighbors enough?
- How significant is the role of family dysfunction and socioeconomic status to injustice and racism? How do we fight those negative forces?
- Should churches work to be more diverse in their congregations?
- Is there a current example, group or organization that is doing this racial reconciliation well? How are you personally benefiting from reconciliation today?
- Some say that by the year 2050 the world will be full of multiracial people, how do you think this prediction will affect racism?
- How has living in a Post-Obama and current Trump era society added to the racial injustice conversation? How can we as assumed God loving people break this cycle of systemic injustice?
- It is now a requirement when you apply for jobs (specifically corporate) that you either enter your race or decline to answer, if you have or have ever had a disability (they give an offensive list that includes aids, cancer, depression, MS, etc.), and if you were/are a veteran. I am mixed races and adopted with a "disability" and hate these questions. They say it won't affect a placement of a job but it feels like you’re filed in an system somewhere. I don't want to be ashamed of my race but don't feel safe in that space and less safe by pushing back or declining. Recommendations for this and other types of labeling questions that may have ramifications to your job, service to others, mass classification, etc?
- We're approaching the hardest thing ... dancing around it. It is that we are attached to privilege... WHY? ... this more than the cognitive group think systemic hegemonic effect. Growing empathy is great, but white fragility will continue as long as We Won't Give Up Our Privilege!
- Interlocking systems sound like an impenetrable wall. Where in our society do you see the best opportunities to make progress?
- Please define what you mean by “the system”.
- How do I speak to my white son about race and privilege in an ongoing constructive way as he grows up?
- Jeremiah 8:20. The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are (still) not saved. Tired of talking. After 500 years of oppression...The fire next time? Why are we not thinking about the FIRE THIS TIME!
- Can I ask the same question again about meaningful integration but have a person of color answer? I'd like to hear their perspective as well.
- What would you (Michelle) say to other minorities that think these are non issues? i.e.- the issues either aren't serious, made up, or overblown?
- How can we best impact young people that are stuck in their stereotype, perpetuated by generations or racism and oppression (specifically gang members) who could break their familial/cultural/societal cycle by making different choices.... coming from a young white female, never having experienced anything even remotely comparing to their reality? What do they need to hear? Can they hear it from me? How can we best impact the next generation?
- If you were president for a day how would you change the system?