Calling Out Casual Racism

If there's anything that really bothers an Episcopalian, it's the possibility that we're being rude (and yes, I would include using the wrong fork in this category!). So when it comes to calling out our friends and family when we see them engaging in microagression, we find ourselves in a bind: do we violate our "never criticize another person in public" policy or do we let the moment pass in silence, thereby appearing to condone the behavior?

What's microagression, you ask? Microagression is a casual, indirect, and sometimes unintentional act of discrimination. Because microagression often is practiced through condescension, the perpetrator may intend to be kind. That makes calling out the microagressor that much more difficult. Luvvie Ajayi addresses microagression in the Ted Ideas Interview, "Why We Need to Call Out Casual Racism."

In reading Ajayi's interview, I am reminded that we speak of Jesus the one who for our sake was made to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Perhaps this Lent, we likewise need to practice becoming "rude" so as to participate in the greater courtesy of God. 

Discussion Questions for Chapter 2 of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

February 8, 2018—Chapter 2: "Getting Ready to Be an Ally"

1. Craigo-Snell and Doucot are a Presbyterian and a Roman Catholic respectively. Does their account of sin as “not a negative evaluation of humanity but rather a positive affirmation that we have a God-given vocation to love” match up with what you have been taught to believe about sin and/or what you have actually come to believe? How does their account change the way you think about conversations you’ve been in with regard to race?

2. Doucot and Craigo-Snell describe humanity’s “large-scale make-missing” as a condition in which:

As we grow and develop within such fallen human communities, we are shaped and influenced by them. We learn their prejudices, imbibe their violence, and take on their misshapen values. By the time we are able to make free, individual, moral choices, we do so badly. Our freedom is compromised by our cultural conditioning, our individual choices take place in contexts determined by the larger society, our options are limited by unjust social structures, and even our moral compasses have been poorly calibrated in our sinful world. We retain our individual agency—our capacity to act—yet we are also bound by original sin. (60)

In what way and to what extent does this account tell the story of your own experience of systemic racism? In what way and to what extent does this account fit with your theology of baptism as a sacrament through which God cleanses us from original sin?

3 In what way have you experienced the difference between confessing sin and admitting guilt (62) in your own experience of racism?

4. Where and how do you find yourself called to deploy creativity and faith in “deciding how we go about repairing our societal structures”? (69)

A Journey Towards Becoming Beloved Community with Bishops Bill, Doug, and Jennifer

Bishop Bill Gafken of the Indiana-Kentuck Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, and Bishop Doug Sparks of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana gather to discuss Becoming Beloved Community, a journey of Racial Reconciliation.

Discussion Questions for Chapter 1 of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

January 25, 2017—Chapter 1: Understanding the Struggles for LGBTQ Equality and Racial Justice

1. Craigo-Snell and Doucot cite Theologian Willie James Jennings in arguing:

that the severing of identity from geography—separating who people are from the land they inhabit—was vital to the social construction of race. Only when large groups of people moved from one place to another—across countries and continents—did it became possible and useful to identify them not primarily on the basis of geographical ties but on the basis of skin color. (30)

Their point is about the history of race as a social construction, but we can also ask this question about the way in which the social construction of race works in our own lives. What roles do either geography (town, school district, etc) or skin color play in your identification of others?

2. Pages 30-37 outline a history we have heard about in other texts we have read. What surprised you in this account? What are you seeing differently than you did a year or so ago?

3 In speaking about segregation, Doucot and Craigo-Snell say that crossing “the boundaries that divide us and seek[ing] out mutual relationships with African Americans . . . does not mean that the ultimate goal of allyship is having more black friends. Because racism is structural and systematic, it cannot be undone without significant changes in policy, law, and concrete practices” (44). How is this statement in tension with church practice as you experience it?

4. How do you see the obstacles of welcome, relationship, classism and guilt at work in your own experience? Do they work differently for LGBTQ issues than they do for racial issues?


Discussion Questions for Forward and Introduction of No Innocent Bystanders

Craigo-Snell, Shannon and Christopher Doucot. No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice. Louisville, Presbyterian Publishing: 2017.

January 11, 2017—Forward and Introduction

1. When the Young Men’s Leadership Group from Hillhouse High School speaks at nearby Yale University, “What can Yale students to do help you?” is the first question they receive. How did you feel when the question was met with “stone faced” silence? How did you feel when the Hillhouse students began to respond?

2. How did you feel when Shriver reported that “Some of those leadership group young men went on to college, and some finished high school. But some ended up in jail too: the odds against them didn’t change much because of our group”? Were you expecting a happy ending? Why or why not?

3. Craigo-Snell and Doucot remark that:

many white people in the United States—particularly those who are middle-class—have found that stepping into the role of ally in the movement for LGBTQ liberation is easier than stepping into a similar role in the movement for racial justice. (3)

Has that fit your own experience here in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana? When have you found yourself tempted into “appalling silence” with regard to either issue?

4. How helpful is the privilege of car ownership as a lens through which to view systemic racism?

5. What was your reaction to encountering a discussion of grace in the midst of a conversation about systemic racism?

6. A number of the activists advising on this project expressed concern about the term “ally,” particularly because “the ally has the option to step out of companionship with the minoritized person.” How might we use the problematic nature of the term “ally” as a way of acknowledging our privilege rather than denying it?

Becoming Beloved Community—Advent Study

Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the Light for all people!
Are you willing to prepare to Become the Beloved Community? This is an initiative adopted by the Episcopal Church focused on Racial Reconciliation and Justice. A Four Week Advent Program has been prepared for our use and I invite you to join me on one of these Thursday evenings.
Here is the schedule, theme and meeting place and time:
Thursday, 30 November- Telling the Truth about our Churches and Race
St. Augustine's in Gary at 7 p.m.
Thursday, 7 December- Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community
Gethsemane in Marion at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, 14 December- Practicing the Way of Love in the Pattern of Jesus
Holy Trinity in South Bend at 7 p.m.
Thursday, 21 December- Repairing the Breach in Institutions and Society
Trinity in Fort Wayne at 7 p.m.
Plan to set aside at least 45 minutes for each conversation. Look for an Advent Calendar to arrive at your faith community soon. You will find a printer-friendly resources and alternative activities at
+Bishop Doug