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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Seeing our racism

Relationships remove the lenses that blind us to white privilege

"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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