Adult Study Series

Week 6: The Cash Value of Education, pages 69-73

This week we continue our exploration of The Cash Value of Whiteness by focusing on education. In Part 3, Chapter 2 of our curriculum (pages 69-73), John Dorhauer talks about “How Education Advantages Whites,” and asks what we are called to do in response to vast inequities in education between whites and almost every other race.

Also, if you have time, please watch “How America’s Public Schools Keep Kids in Poverty” (14 minutes):

And take a look at “Still Separate and Unequal,” a study published in 2015 in U.S. News and World Report:

Some Questions to Consider:

Thinking about your own education starting with K-12, how have the quality and quantity of that education affected your life? While your own intelligence, skills and entrepreneurial instincts may have contributed significantly to your achievements, do you think your education has given or deprived you of economic power? How would a different quality of education have affected your life?

What information drew your attention in the articles on education and race this week (Dorhauer article and US News and World Report)? 

Did anything in these articles on race and education surprise you?

What is your understanding of the goal of affirmative action?  What do you think about affirmative action policies?  Why do you think we as a nation have not supported affirmative action policies?

Can you help us understand the difference between corrective justice and distributive justice?

Week 5
We are beginning a new unit of our study called The Cash Value of Whiteness. In this section we will look at the intersection of race and economics in five different areas: the criminal justice system, education, housing, the income and wealth disparity, and health care. The curriculum reading for this week, pages 65-69, gives a brief introduction to thinking about the economic disadvantages for African Americans using the metaphor of a Black Tax—the price of being an African American that white people don’t have to pay.

Possible Questions to Consider:

How does the idea of a Black Tax help us understand the economic disadvantages of being an African American? Consider Stephen G. Ray’s categories of a municipal tax, a property tax and an education tax.

What services do you expect from your local police department? Have your tax dollars been well spent on your and your neighborhood’s behalf? Give an example. How do you think African Americans experience policing differently?

Stephen G. Ray mentions some examples of the cost or tax of unjust policing in Black communities, including bail bonds, lost wages and unexpected childcare expenses due to court appearances, and arrest records that affect employment chances. Ray sums up this cost/tax as an “intergenerational impact on both the accumulation of financial security, or lack thereof, and life opportunities that emerge from these resources.” Can you add to Ray’s list of COSTS of unjust policing in Black communities?

How have you experienced white privilege in your dealings with the criminal justice system?

In the U.S. Blacks are sent to prison 6 times more often than whites. One in 3 African American males will spend time in prison. How is the mass incarceration of Blacks, which is related to the school-to-prison pipeline, tied in with white privilege?

Because the intersection of race and the criminal justice system is such a significant current topic, we have added other optional readings in this area. Pick and choose among this list and bring whatever you find significant to the discussion on Sunday.

Last week the Washington Post introduced a series on systemic racism, “George Floyd’s America.” Here’s Part I: ”Born With Two Strikes.”

The UCC White Privilege curriculum includes a 4-minute music video, “Racism is Real,” that illustrates facts and statistics on the Cash Value of Whiteness:

Bryan Stevenson, Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy, speaks briefly here about the crisis in our criminal justice system.

This is another short clip by Bryan Stevenson about life without parole for children convicted of crimes and its racial implications.
If you want to learn more about the criminal justice system through Bryan’s perspective, you might watch the HBO documentary True Justice. This is a full-length documentary.

Here’s an introduction to Michelle Alexander, who has written passionately about the intersections between mass incarceration in The New Jim Crow. In this 13 minute clip, Alexander challenges us to reimagine our systems and see everyone as part of God’s creation.
Although somewhat dated (made during the Obama administration), this longer interview with Bill Moyers and Michelle Alexander allows us to hear more about the relationship between race and mass incarceration. (35 minutes)

WEEK 4, Sunday, October 11
Thanks to everyone who has participated so far, and a warm welcome to anyone who would like to join the conversation or just listen in.
This week we’ll be talking about ideas from Chapter 4 (pages 51-57): The White Jesus; and Chapter 5 (pages 58-63): Lightness and Darkness as experienced in the Genealogy and Liturgy of the Church.
These materials raise hard questions about how depictions of Jesus as white may affect our deepest assumptions about ourselves and God.
Our UCC team of writers also touch on a major difference between white and African-American Protestant faith traditions.
Read what you can, but please join us! This introduction will also be posted on the church web page.
1. Have you ever seen an image of a non-white Jesus in a church or worship setting? Can you remember how it affected you?
2. Would placing an image of a non-white Jesus cause a conflict in our church?
3. Do you prefer to see Jesus depicted as white? With gentle compassion for yourself, can you consider why?
4. Traci Blackmon, a black minister of the UCC, writes, “For me, white Jesus is a reminder of the dominant culture’s insatiable need for supremacy and the toxic roots of racism woven into the fabric of American Christianity.” (55)
How do you respond to what Blackmon is telling us? 
How do you think adding an image of a black or brown Jesus to our sanctuary would change your worship experience?
5. In our reading, Pastor John Dorhauer talks about taking his confirmation class (from a predominantly white church) to an inner-city black church, where his group heard a black youth choir sing.  Pastor Dorhauer told his group: “There’s no reason you couldn’t sing like that.” The pastor of the inner-city church overheard him and replied:  “Yes there is.”
What do you think the pastor’s reply meant? What implications might there be as we consider our own way of worshipping?   

Week 3: White Privilege Study

Thanks to everyone who has been able to participate in this study so far. Hearing each other’s stories is a rich experience and helps broaden the perspective of all of us.
This week we are working with two chapters of the curriculum. Chapter 2 (pages 38-42) Binary:Lightness and Darkness and Chapter 3 (pages 44-51) Iconography: The Investment in Whiteness in Narrating History.
These materials consider meanings we have assigned to the binary of light/dark and how often the history we have been taught has been told through the lens of whiteness. If you have time, read the two chapters. If not, join us anyway. These instructions will also be posted on the church web page under Adult Study if the email gets deleted.

Questions to consider in response to the reading:

  1. Try making your own list of words you associate with light and with dark. Do some of those words have a good/bad judgment associated with them? Can you see how those judgments may have been part of creating and sustaining white supremacy?
  2. Listen to the recording of James Weldon Johnson’s poem “Creation” read by Wintley Phipps. What strikes you as significant about hearing the creation story from the perspective of an African American poet and heard through an African American voice?
  3. This week’s curriculum offers us two examples of the ways U.S. history has often been taught through a white lens: Christopher Columbus and John Brown. How do you respond to hearing these histories retold from a different perspective? (You may want to watch the video clip that examines Columbus or read John Brown’s speech’sSpeech.html referred to in the curriculum.)
  4. How does the recent move to remove symbols of the Confederacy from public spaces (flags, monuments, etc) continue the conversation in this week’s reading?
  5. If you haven’t seen the film Hidden Figures, watch the trailer. (scroll down for trailer)
    How do films such as this one shift how we view history? Can you think of other films or books that seek to reveal “hidden” figures?
  6. How do you see cultural standards of beauty as part of looking at the world through a white lens?

White Privilege  Week 2:  Whiteness as the Norm
The White Privilege Study Group is up and running.  If you missed last week, feel free to join us this Sunday.  The topic for this week is Whiteness as the Norm:  Reflections on How this is Evidenced and Experienced.  In other words, how does whiteness impact our every day lives?  Where do we see our whiteness making a difference in how we experience the world? 
Because whiteness is often the norm, especially in Iowa, we may need some help in seeing how whiteness affects us if we are part of that norm (ie if we are white).  The reading this week, from both white people and people of color, gives us examples of how the writers experience whiteness as the norm. 
If you have time, we suggest reading the Introduction to the Curriculum (pages 2-4) by John Dorhauer. This curriculum can be found on the White Privilege Curriculum Tab under the Adult Study tab on this website.
Then read Pages 30-36, which is Chapter One in the Part  Two: Whiteness as the Norm (colored purple).  You get 5 short takes on the topic by 5 different writers, 2 white people and 3 people of color.  If a writer’s style does not appeal to you, just skip that section.  We are SKIPPING the Spiritual Autobiography section (pages 5-29) for now and will return to it later. 
If you can, spend some time with the questions on Page 36 in preparation for our discussion Sunday.  Again, the idea is to reflect on the multiple ways we experience whiteness as the norm in our lives and to consider how that shapes us.  (You may need to think pre-covid life when we had more interactions in the world!)
You might also take a look at this short video from The Guardian, which gives another person of color’s point of view on how he experiences whiteness as the norm.

Discussion Series: White Privilege, Let’s Talk (Week 1)

Curious about “white privilege”?

Annoyed by the term, but willing to explore the concept with people you trust, using materials provided by the UCC?

Faith Works looks forward to joining you for a weekly Zoom discussion series, White Privilege, Let’s Talk, to begin Sunday, September 20 after Worship.

If you have time, before that first meeting it may be helpful to take a look at two videos recommended by the UCC as resources for the curriculum.

First, a fast-paced, humorous 4-minute video, “Why Does Privilege Make People So Angry?”

Then a 22-minute video, “Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo.”

Note your questions, objections and other reactions.

To give you a sense of what to expect during our online meetings, here’s a link to the UCC curriculum    

Group Guidelines

Share time and space to talk with others

Speak from your own experience

Listen carefully before responding

Respect confidentiality

Pay attention to times when you feel defensive and be open to exploring what lies beneath your responses

If someone makes a comment you disagree with, let’s try to be gentle with one another, acknowledging we are all learners.  You might ask Why do you think that? Or Tell us more about how you came to believe that before you share your perspective.

If you say something that you regret saying, feel free to acknowledge it with a straightforward Oops.

Allow each other and ourselves to change

This could be fun. We will be making discoveries together, with “beginners’ minds.”

Hoping to see you on Sunday, September 20 after worship,

Carol Tyx and Ann Zerkel, co-facilitators for Faith Works.