Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Day

It’s a holiday here in the U.S., when we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the past 5+ years, I have co-pastored a church alongside an African American pastor and his congregation. Since then, many more people have come to worship with us and be part of our church community at Clark-Grace United Church of Christ in South St. Paul. Although there have been rocky moments, which has resulted in former members leaving, there are wonderful relationships. I have learned so much.

With this day in mind, I found this article helpful, about white friends who desire to be allies for people of color.

Not wired

A couple weeks ago, I took a workshop in my town: Diversity and Inclusivity.  If you've read my About Me page, you know that I am copastor with an African American pastor for a church that is roughly 50/50 white and black people. 

The area I live in, which used to be composed of all (or mostly all) white people, is gradually having more and more people of color move into it. The mayor wished to be proactive and a series of workshops and presentations has been put together for townspeople to participate in, if they so wish. 

About 100-150 of us gathered the second night in the high school's common area.


Not Wired to Perceive Unknown

What did we learn that night? The brain is not wired to perceive the unknown.

Imagine an iceberg.  Above water, we see is human behavior.  Under the water are the structures, systems, thoughts, paradigms, ideas, images, and beliefs that show up by way of behavior.

Researchers used to believe that we could not unlearn the implicit "education" we received in childhood because we are unaware of those influences. 

But recent research suggests we can reshape our unconscious attitudes and beliefs.

How might this work? 

Four Stage Movement to Awareness

There is a four stage movement: 

  1. unconscious incompetence                          4. unconscious competence
  2. conscious incompetence                              3.  conscious competence

During the couple of hours were we together, we were given several different exercises to do. After each exercise we were encourage to find people at different tables, people we didn't know to talk briefly about the exercises with one another.  

What are some of the important take-aways to becoming a more diverse and inclusive community? 

  • stress exacerbates biases
  • are we motivated to learn new information and change
  • are we willing to see others, who are different from us, as individuals (rather than as a uniform group to hate and use as scapegoats)
  • do we work with diverse people as equal members in pursuit of a common goal
  • do we see leaders work with diverse people as equal members
People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And the final question we were left with for the evening:

What will I commit to do to manage my own unconscious bias?