UnLearn Week prompts difficult discussions
American slaves were declared free in 1863 by the Emancipation Proclamation. Almost 100 years later, minorities were allowed the right to vote. American schools, public properties and the military were desegregated and in the last four years, the first African-American president has been voted into office.
So much progress has taken place in so little time. It is easy to see why people think that America is not only the land of the free but the land free from racism. So many Americans feel that we have arrived, but events take place in our communities and nation every day that prove otherwise.
Media shares stories of racial injustice that occur in our country regularly. The dispute is not of who is bad or good, right or wrong, or whether they are justified.
Ultimately, what needs to be understood is that in order to continue the progress we have been making as a nation, and as communities, continual dialogue about racial reconciliation must continue to take place.
The conversation does not take place with just one group of people. If we are honest and truthful with ourselves, every person — black, white or brown— has been marked with racism. The stereotypes and beliefs we are brought up to learn or discover have unknowingly perpetrated an idea that is untrue about races of people. This shows us that even though progress for racial equality has increased in our country, we need to continue dialogue to reinforce the ongoing fervor of change.
During UnLearn Week, which took place from Oct. 7 to 12, Calvin students and staff discussed racism, its effect on society and the push for continual change. The events allowed students to actively engage in dialogue that talked about issues of race from a minority experience, and even from a majority group experience. The events challenged the Calvin community of all races and ethnic backgrounds to think about their place in society, in what way we help perpetuate stereotypes and how we can transform their communities around them in the kingdom fight for racial reconciliation.
I think a lot of students or staff can be hesitant about UnLearn Week because it pushes our comfort zone. Racial reconciliation requires a lot of conscious effort from all of us as a community. It requires awareness of the institutional racial constraints that have been placed on groups of people and focus on the commonalities of each individual we encounter regardless of race, gender or class.
As a society, we can be dismissive about cultures we don’t understand. Moreover, we are dismissive of issues that we perceive as not being “about us.” When we learn about other cultures along with cultures within our dominant culture, our individual lives are enriched and we are able to develop the communities around us. Our Calvin community is a part of a larger community that composes the world we live in.
Most importantly, these conversations help us understand our work as Christians and help us move towards racial equality.
UnLearn Week 2012 speaker Noel Castellanos spoke about the call for racial justice, and community as Christ followers. He encouraged dialogue and actions for community change so racial progress in our nation could continue, instead of remaining stagnant.
“I am convinced that kingdom people can unleash God’s love and justice with such a powerful force … this is something worth working for,” he stated.
Continuous change begins with conversation so, let’s talk about it.