Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You're Not White!

Sister Nora Ryan tutors a third grade Burundian girl at the International Community School in Decatur Georgia. Recently the task was to talk about “sames and differences”. Naomi said: “You have white hair and I have black hair; you are tall and I am short.” Holding out her hand she said, “I have brown skin” and touching Nora’s hand she said, “Your skin is wh….” In a voice of surprise, she didn’t finish that sentence but instead said, “You’re not white!” She then picked up a piece of white paper and put it up to Nora’s hands and said, “This paper is white”. Nora asked, “what color am I?” Naomi said, “light brown” and that’s what she put on her paper.

I love this story. What color are any of us and why is it such a sad significance in our country? As Dominicans of Sinsinawa one of our goals is to be an anti-racist congregation. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s easy. You are nuns.” Truth to tell, this is a life-long journey of recognizing white privilege and working to end racism which is systemic. Recently, someone was telling me about being in an Atlanta hospital where all the help were Canadians. I paused and she said, “Do you know what I mean?” When I answered, “No” she said, “They’re all black” I was a bit floored but it wasn’t until a later conversation that I was able to give a gentle response telling her that this was offensive. I’m wondering how many other “code words” are out there.

We welcome good companions to pass on the great work of being an anti-racist society. After all, Jesus was a companion on this journey.
Sr. Patty Caraher, OP

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