Breaking Racial Barriers
On a recent Saturday at the Solanus Casey Center in a dimly lit room fifteen people gathered in a circle to begin the process of breaking down racial barriers. As a chime sounded the group was invited by Marcia Lee, the facilitator, to embrace a method of sharing one’s story. This method applies a Circle of Trust and is used by the Center for Courage and Renewal. Underlying the process is the belief that each person has inner wisdom to transform oneself if given the opportunity to pay attention.
Since it was such a personalized exercise, all I am truly able to convey is the impact the experience had on me. As a white upper class educated woman working in the Catholic Church, I entered the Circle of Trust already aware of my white privilege. What I soon discovered with the opportunity to talk about my early memories of being aware of racial differences was that I learned to turn to spirituality to deal with racial issues from my grandmother. When I was young, my grandmother who lived in a racially changing neighborhood during the early 1970’s shared with me that she was praying a novena to the Blessed Mother to overcome her prejudice. A rosary was said each day for 54 days. For 27 days she asked to remove prejudice from her heart. For 27 days following she thanked God and trusted that God was hearing her prayer. I learned from my grandmother that when one did not feel connected to another because of one’s skin color or ethnic background, the way to overcome it was a spiritual path.
Each person discovered their own story and their own inner wisdom. As we gathered in groups of three we told our stories and had an opportunity for those listening to our stories to ask us “open and honest” questions. These questions were meant to help a person delve a bit deeper into what was just shared. The questions were not designed to find out more information, but rather to assist the person talking to explore a thought or a feeling that may have been touched on but not fully expressed.
It slowly became evident that the way to remove the barrier of race demanded inner change. Each one of us through articulating our unique experiences and thoughts coupled with our memories grew to understand that the barriers were constructs we hold in place. As our awareness of our barriers became clear, our auto pilot reactions were laid bare and could be considered. Ultimately the only person you ever have control over is yourself and what you tell yourself. In a gathering of trust and honesty, we were able to access a deeper part of ourselves where a cauldron of feelings and memories swirl. We were able to voice what we found to be true about ourselves as well as shine a light on our shadows. In the end our shared stories helped us to find a shared humanness that linked us beyond racial, gender, religious or economic barriers.
Solanus Casey Center