Never Too Late to Learn
by Robin Morgenthaler
Last month, one of my Side By Side sisters, Christon Sawatsky, pushed me out of my comfort zone. Christon asked me to post a statement for Side By Side surrounding racism and the death of George Floyd. I am not proud of my initial response to her. Frankly, I was just not sure what to say. I am thankful, however, for her insistence I write the statement. To begin, Christon urged me to examine my own life by looking in my heart for the presence of racism. She had already done this and had been doing research to more fully educate herself. Christon was gentle but insistent with me, pointing out she did not believe that I, a white woman, understood the real truth about the plight of my black sisters. She also said she had heard that Side By Side was not a welcoming place for our black sisters. I did not know why this was the case, and I truly believed it was not true. I never imagined it because I thought I welcomed and loved everyone. Didn’t everyone else?
After wrestling, praying and help from other wise women, I created a statement using thoughtful words from CMDA’s statement on racism, adding encouragements to self-examine, acknowledge sin and confess it, which was a start. It was posted on Facebook’s Side By Side page, and many of you saw it and “liked” it. There was a list of resources posted under this thread for others to begin their journey followed by a great response for a summer virtual book club to study and discuss the book, I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.
In the meantime, I began my own journey. I thought back to every black person I had a relationship with (a few were quite memorable). From Miss May, who helped my mom with the housework when I was a preschooler and gave the best hugs you could ever imagine, to April M., the girl in my ninth grade homeroom who was the biggest Phillies fan I ever met. Then there was Jimmy B., the LPN I worked with at my first job as a nurse. Jimmy was older than me and had more experience than me, but since I was the one with the most education, I made the assignments. He had attitude, and I wondered why? For each individual, I analyzed what I thought of him or her back then, and I tried to remember how well I had loved him or her. Then, I thought of the women at Side By Side who had black skin. They were definitely in the minority. How must that feel? Do I love them well? Finally, I thought of my oldest grandchild, Zoe, a sweet seven-year-old girl with black skin. How have I loved her? What attitudes have I brought into that relationship? Am I loving her fully? What can I do better?
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED
This whole journey, which I have only begun, has been humbling, eye opening and full of lament as I realize my upbringing, education and attitude about the black race was born, bred and fed in ignorance. I just did not have a total picture of the black woman’s experience or history and frankly, I was all too comfortable. Also, I was living in ignorant denial. You see, I was raised in a white world, in a Christian family, without adequately questioning the inconsistencies and inequalities that I saw. I just accepted them. I believed the picture I saw was mostly OK without asking any tougher “why” questions.
I continued with more prayer, fasting and learning. I watched a webinar from CMDA called “Racism and Reconciliation.” I learned that what happened in the past to all blacks was very damaging and that hurt has passed through the generations and is impacting them to this day. I learned that healthcare has not been equal for black communities. I consulted other resources and learned that much of black history had been omitted from my education because it was written by white people. I learned that laws have been enacted to keep black people from rising up and from living in certain areas of the country and attending the “better” schools. Banks run by white people have not been fair to black people. I learned that white people continue to take advantage of black people. I additionally learned that segregation in America is at its peak at 11:00 a.m. on Sundays. I learned that as a white person, I need to do better. I should take time to understand, mourn and lament over these atrocities to my black sisters and brothers. After all, we are all God’s children and He loves us all.
So, I contacted a friend who is a doctor’s wife, and I asked to talk with her. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, we placed our cars side by side and spoke across the parking lot for almost two hours. I began sharing my recent journey of trying to understand my own racism and some of the new truths I had just learned. With tears and deep feelings of remorse, I apologized to my friend. She was forgiving and told me more of her story as a Christian, a black woman, a doctor’s wife and a mother of 4 boys living in our community. I listened. My eyes were further opened as I heard her story and of the unfair treatment she and her boys had experienced. My heart was deeply saddened as now I recognize I have to own a part of her unfair treatment. I was in tears because I had totally missed the mark. I vowed I must and will do better. For me, this meant I will listen more and make it a priority to build relationships with those who do not look like me. I will care for them, speak out for them and that I will do better to make things more equal for my black sisters and brothers.
So, I am asking you all, especially my white sisters, have you examined yourself for the presence of racism in your life? Have you asked our almighty God to reveal your wrong thoughts and to forgive you for these sins? If not, will you please pray and ask God to reveal what attitudes and actions you need to take? Will you ask our Heavenly Father to reveal to you just what you can do to make this situation better for our black brothers and sisters? As Christians, these issues are our problems. I echo what Carol said, as doctor’s wives, we are leaders in our communities, and we do have a loud voice for change. We have a part in creating the solutions and should model them to the world. This will require us to be courageous and bold for one another. We will need the Holy Spirit’s direction and power. It may not feel comfortable as we begin, but we must begin.
CMDA’s Statement on Racism
(scroll down to Racism under Public Policy Statements)