Diversity and Inclusiveness

Lent study: resisting racism

Lent and Easter: Resisting Racism. Photo by sterlsev, IStockphoto.com. Courtesy of Religion & Race.
Lent and Easter: Resisting Racism. Photo by sterlsev, IStockphoto.com. Courtesy of Religion & Race.

It would be very hard to find anyone who would say they were against resisting racism. Yet, racism persists both in our world and in The United Methodist Church. To resist racism, we must learn new information (knowledge/mindset), engage our willingness to make change (will/heartset), and do the tangible work of disrupting and dismantling racism (action/skillset). The resources presented in this package have been created and framed for both individuals and groups to engage during the Lenten season. May God bless you as you seek to the do the work of Resisting Racism.

Options for Use:

  1. All groups should choose one resource per week – more than one resource per week is too much information to process deeply and do well. It is better to spend more time on one resource than to skim multiple resources and have superficial conversations or engage in meaningless acts.
  2. Some large groups might split into smaller groups. If this is the case, each smaller group might choose a different resource to focus on. In this scenario, each group would engage their resource, then, if time allows, small groups might share with the larger group their learnings, actions, and transformation.
  3. Facilitators should determine ahead of time if participants need to read article/material ahead of time so the group time can be spent discussing on the common reading and determining next steps.
  4. Preachers might use one resource per week to supplement their sermon preparation during the Lent/Easter season.
  5. Cabinets might choose one or more resources to discuss during their meetings during the Lent/Easter season. Discussions might include questions about how the information learned, or learning engagements experienced, will transform appointment decisions or church conferences.
  6. Be sure to create a post-Easter action plan that will put to use what you/your group learned during your study.
    • Name one thing that you or your group will do differently because of what you’ve learned and experienced.
    • Connect that “new thing” with how you believe God is calling us to live as Christians.
    • Email GCORR at [email protected] to let us know about your experience and what your group decided to do. We’d love to hear from you!

Ash Wednesday: “Our Call to Resist Racism”

Choose one resource per group. Each of these resources includes discussion questions. Feel free to add additional questions that pertain specifically to your context and/or the Lenten season.

Lent 1: “Equal in the Eyes of God”

While theologically many, if not all of us proclaim we are all equal in the eyes of God, reality proclaims otherwise. Differences in access to resources and opportunities, even the trust we offer some and not others, continues to differ based on race. Choose one resource per group. If discussion questions tailored for the Lenten study are listed here, please use these. If there are no additional questions added, please use those included with the resource link.

      1. “Wait….That’s Privilege?” Take the quiz and ask the following questions for discussion:
        • What privileges do you have that you already knew about?
        • What privileges do you have that surprised you?
        • Each of us have privileges in different areas of our lives. Based on the quiz categories, name which areas of your life you have privilege, and which areas in which you do not.
        • During this season of Lent, name one specific, measurable, and actionable way you will use one of your privileges for good.
      2. Bearing Witness in the 21st Century: When Video Evidence is Not Enough” (Puerto Rico Toolkit)
        • Discuss the questions listed with the resource;
        • Using the date you use this resource, how long has it been since Hurricane Maria hit landfall in Puerto Rico?
        • What are the current living conditions in Puerto Rico right now? If no one in your group knows first-hand, do some internet research.
        • If you and your family were living in Puerto Rico right now, what is the first thing you would want addressed? Why?
        • As a group, come to a consensus about which “first thing” should be addressed. During this season of Lent, name one specific, measurable, actionable way you will address that “first thing.”

Lent 2: “Race Isn’t Real but Racial Realities Are”

Race is not based in biology. Rather, race is a human created category meant to justify how we treat one another, how we distribute resources and opportunities, and how much power we wield. Each of us, though we are more than the racial category we have been assigned and/or identify for ourselves, see the world through our racialized lenses and the world sees us in racialized ways. In order to truly Resist Racism, we must take seriously our own racial realities and those of others.

      1. All Groups:
        • Offer your name and how you identify racially.
        • Take the first 5 minutes to remember and write down major points about the first time you recognized your race.
        • Go around the room and share ONLY TWO words:
          • ONE: how you FELT during the experience you wrote about;
          • TWO: how you FEEL about doing this study with your group.
      2. Choose One Resource To Study:
        • When You’re Used to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression” (This article was written by Chris Boelskool and published on TheBoeskool and Huffington Post.)
          • Has using the term “privilege” helped or hindered talks about racism you’ve been involved with in the past? In what ways?
          • After having read the article, how, if at all, would you explain “privilege” differently?
          • FOR WHITE PEOPLE: What is the importance of white people having to face the realities of racial privilege? Name one white person within your sphere of experience you will share your new knowledge with by Easter.
        • What Is Internalized Oppression?”
          • NAME specific ways that racism is internalized.
          • LIST strategies targeted groups use to free themselves from internalized oppression.
          • SHARE with larger group. Reflect on differences and similarities of responses. How has racial positionality (or different racialized perspectives) contributed to differences.

Lent 3: “All Things Being Equal… But They’re Not” 

    1. Choose One Resource:
      • Is Reverse Racism Really a Thing?” (Use the questions included with resource webpage)
      • Equity v. Equality: Understanding the Differences
        • FACILITATOR READS THIS ALOUD: We are taught to treat everyone equally, but sometimes, even though it might not sound right, treating everyone equally isn’t actually fair. As it relates to racism, treating everyone the same reinforces the differences and inequalities already in place. For example, if a child started with 2 blocks and another child started with 5 blocks, by adding 10 blocks the first child now has 12 and the second child has 15. No matter what number of blocks is added, if the same number of blocks goes to each child, the difference of 3 blocks will remain.
          • Ask the group to discuss their reflections and responses to the information read above. 5 minutes
          • As it relates to racism, imagine the child with 5 blocks is white and the child with 2 blocks is Cherokee. Have the group brainstorm how the children ended up with their blocks by using historical examples of the relations between white people and U.S. Indians.
          • As it relates to your church, who has 2 blocks and who has 5 blocks? Why?
    2. All Groups: Pray for God to help you accept the realities of current racial inequities and for guidance about what God is calling you to do about it.

Lent 4: “Wrestling with Forgiveness While Resisting Racism”

While forgiveness is sometimes dismissed as weakness, its power has freed many from a lifetime of bitterness, hatred, and destruction. If overly-spiritualized or erroneously trivialized, however, forgiveness can become equated with a magic trick or hides a harmful form of denial. Yet, there is something about forgiveness that intrigues us. Bible readers still wrestle with Jesus’ oft-quoted words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

      1. Split Your Group Into Two: ½ of your group reads one article, the other ½ reads the other:
      2. When you come together as one group, ask the following questions and have people say which article they read before they offer their response to each question.
        • How is forgiveness described in each?
        • How have the surviving family members of the Emanuel 9 understood forgiveness?
        • Where do expectations (or demands) to forgive, specifically those placed upon Black communities in the U.S., create harm?
        • How do these complexities challenge our definitions of forgiveness, and challenge us?
      3. Listen to Mark Miller’s “I CHOOSE LOVE.” Use the last minutes of your time together to discuss the lyrics in light of what you’ve learned this week.

Lent 5: “Racial Reconciliation: Resisting or Reinforcing Racism?”

Racial Reconciliation is often used as a catch-all phrase in attempts to work toward racial justice and equity. But what does it really mean to reconcile persons or groups of persons? Choose one of the following learning activities and engage with the questions/items attached.

      1. BEFORE READING ARTICLE: brainstorm phrases and short sentences of what racial reconciliation means to you.
      3. Name how Rev. Tillman describes efforts at racial reconciliation that are hurtful or harmful.
      4. Name how Rev. Tillman describes efforts at racial reconciliation that would be more helpful.
      5. What was most surprising or most powerful about this way of thinking about racial reconciliation?
      6. What does this mean for you, your group, & your church? (IE: “so what & now what?”)
  • Choice 2: “What Do We Mean by Racial Reconciliation?”
      1. Brainstorm phrases and short sentences of what racial reconciliation means to you.
      2. Describe what racial reconciliation is intended to “do.”
      3. Consider four different words and their definitions. Make a list of strengths and limitations for using each of the words for the work of racial justice and equity in the midst of racism. (If you are limited on time, you might want to split the group into 4 groups, have each group work on one word, and then have each group report back to the whole.
        • RECONCILE: restore friendly relations between; cause to co-exist in harmony; make or show to be compatible; make consistent with another – as in bank statements.
        • RESTORE: reinstate (a previous right, practice, custom, situation); renovate something to former condition, place, or position; return something (i.e., relationship) to original state; give something previously stolen, taken away, or lost back to original owner.
        • REPAIR: fix or mend (a thing suffering damage or fault); the result of fixing or mending; the relative physical condition of an object (state of repair); a place that is frequently visited or occupied.
        • RECONSTRUCT: build or form something again after damage or is destroyed; reorganize something; form an impression, model, or re-enactment of a past event or thing from the available evidence.
      4. Decide whether or not “racial reconciliation” is the term you want to use as a phrase to do the work of racial justice and equity. If not, what term do you want to use?
      5. Brainstorm phrases and short sentences of what your racial justice/equity term means to you.
      6. What specific actions make this term a reality?

Lent 6: “Naming the Racism to Resist”

      1. Moving the Race Conversation Forward is a video that breaks down the differences between four types of racism and defines the concept of systemic awareness.
        • What are the 4 types of racism presented in the video?
        • What are the differences between them?
        • What does it mean to be “systemically aware?”
        • Think back to discussions about racism you have heard in the church. On what “type” of racism were they concentrated? Was this discussion systemically aware? If not, imagine what would have been needed in order to transform it into a systemically aware discussion (i.e., what changes to focus or language, what information needed to be added or left out).
      2. The Rev. Dr. Barber offers a succinct, historical, and powerful overview of ways to situate white supremacy within the larger American context as well as provide a roadmap for future action. After watching the video, reflect on and discuss the following individual or small group questions:
        • What does Dr. Barber say is the difference between denouncing Charlottesville and denouncing white supremacy?
        • What does Dr. Barber say is the difference between and the usefulness of addressing the “statues” and the “statutes” of white supremacy?
        • How does Dr. Barber refute the claim of “I am not a racist” when only based on someone having a Black or Brown friend?
        • Barber mentions the names of many Civil Rights sheroes and heroes who have died and empowers us to consider ourselves their children who will continue the fight today. Name 3 Civil Rights ancestors whose legacy you will connect with and continue. (For white people, it is imperative to name at least 1 white person active in the work of Civil Rights with whom you can claim affinity.)
        • What specific actions would engage any of the specific action items that Dr. Barber suggests in fighting white supremacy?

Good Friday or Holy Saturday

      1. ALL GROUPS: Read General Hawkins’ letter to the church “Enough is Enough
      2. Name specific instances where your church has failed in the work of resisting racism:
        • Be Accountable;
        • Be Inclusive;
        • Be Courageous
      3. Hold a Prayer Service or Candlelight Vigil crying out to God for direction on how to Resist Racism in the above 3 areas, especially those in which your church has fallen short.

Easter/Post Easter

In one sentence, have each person share what was the most powerful thing they realized and/or did during this study. What action items emerged from the exercises your group did during this study? How has God convicted your heart during this study? We’d love to share with the larger connection how your church has committed to Resist Racism this year, share with us by emailing us here.

Possible Book Studies during the Lenten Season

If a resource-based study with instructions is not for you, the books below can be used individually or as a group to guide reflection, repentance, and action during Lent.



Originally published by Religion & Race, January 9, 2018.