Adapted from Even the Stones Will Cry Out, an adult Bible study on institutionalized racism. Available from Augsburg Fortress, ISBN #6-0001-0761-7; $4.95.
Institutionalized racism denies equal access to basic areas of daily life--services, opportunities and education. To detect it in your community and church, ask:
• Who has access to services, opportunities and education? Who doesn't?
• Who are the leaders and decision-makers?
• Are the voices of outsiders, indigenous people, the oppressed and the poor represented in decision-making?
• Are institutional and agency policies in your community and state laws written or interpreted so they promote equality, accessibility and social justice to people of color or those whose primary language is other than English?
"Sometimes when things happen to me, I don't know if it's because of my race or because I'm a woman," confesses Marilyn Miller, her voice edged with pain. "You know in your heart that racism is not from all white people, but you're in an environment where white people make decisions that make you so angry, decisions that [undermine opportunities for people of color] keeping institutionalized racism in place."
White people have a hard time understanding that anger, she says, "which makes it more difficult for people to walk together as brothers and sisters." It helps that she can always talk to her friend Joyce Caldwell about racism.
"Racism hurts everybody," admits Caldwell. "I'm sad about how much people lose out by being separated."
Both women share a deep, loving friendship and commitment to fight racism. Caldwell's ancestors emigrated to America from Germany; Miller's were forcibly brought from Africa. Caldwell, the executive director of Lutheran Human Relations Association, a pan-Lutheran organization, belongs to Faith Lutheran Church, Cedarburg, Wis., a mostly white community where her husband is a police officer. Miller is a consultant and facilitator for the association and directs a multicultural engineering and applied science program at the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee. She belongs to mostly African-American Cross Lutheran Church in her integrated Milwaukee neighborhood.
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