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UNITY Lutheran Church

Racism Resources


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A Note from Melanie Varin
UNITY Council, President
September 2020

Aversive Racism

As a member of a Milwaukee business leadership group that is ~86% white, we have been reading the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. The book has received mixed reviews, but I have found it quite eye-opening.

One notion DiAngelo describes is Aversive Racism. She writes:

Aversive racism is a manifestation of racism that well-intentioned people who see themselves as educated and progressive are more likely to exhibit. It exists under the surface of consciousness because it conflicts with consciously held beliefs of racial equality and justice. Aversive racism is a subtle but insidious form, as aversive racists enact racism in ways that allow them to maintain a positive self-image.

DiAngelo then goes on to give an example of aversive racism she encountered in an academic interviewing process. She was warned not to buy a home in a couple of specific neighborhoods, especially if she had children. While no one openly named race, the racial coding was not lost on her. When she looked up the demographics on those neighborhoods, she learned that both had ~50% populations of black and brown people. So even during the interviewing process, her fellow whites had communicated racial boundaries to her.

In concluding her section on aversive racism, she wrote:

When you consider the moral judgement we make about people we deem as racist in our society, the need to deny our own racism – even to ourselves – makes sense. We believe we are superior at a deeply internalized level and act on this belief in the practice of our lives, but we must deny this belief to fit into society and maintain our self-identify as good, moral people. Unfortunately, aversive racism only protects racism, because we can’t challenge our racial filters if we can’t consider the possibility that we have them. Of course, some whites explicitly avow racism. We might consider these whites actually more aware of, and honest about, their biases than those of us who consider ourselves open-minded yet who have rarely thought critically about the biases we inevitably hold or how we may be expressing them.

As I read these words, I have to admit I need to think more critically about the biases I hold, so that I can more proactively work toward being anti-racist. As I look to Jesus as my ultimate example, I am reminded of a song I learned as a child:

Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his site. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Perhaps, in light of the fact that we are really on a skin color spectrumcof ivory to dark brown, we should change the lyrics to:

Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Brown and olive, dark and light, they are precious in his site. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Oh God, help me follow your example, and work so that ALL may be seen as in Your image and enjoy the benefits of that great and holy heritage!

Stay tuned for more opportunities to learn and make a difference. Let’s embrace this journey together! We are in it for the long haul!

Our Ministry Partners

As opportunities to work with and be present with our partners present themselves, do not put it off or assume others will do it. We have long-standing relationships with two congregations that would love to go deeper with us. Let’s reciprocate the love!

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For Individuals and Congregation Teams

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