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Exploring inner self through retreat

privilegeNo one would want to admit to any form of racism. But sometimes, a little soul-searching can help rear its ugly head, even if you didn’t think it was there at all.

Racism creeps into our conscious practically every day. Chances are, we don’t even realize it.

On Friday and Saturday June 6-7, members of the Sisters of Providence Anti-Racism Committee met for a two-day retreat to discuss the ongoing issue that is racism.

Workshops took place, in addition to a lot of self-evaluation. Friday’s portion of the retreat included a workshop on the topic, “From the school to the prison pipeline.”

Saturday’s portion included more discussion and workshops on the topic, “White Privilege and Power.”
This was my first retreat to attend, as I have only been employed with the Sisters of Providence since late December 2013.

I eagerly anticipated the retreat and my reasons were very honest.

While I have long believed that I was not racist in any way, I wanted to know: Am I?

On Saturday morning, facilitators Dorothy Burge and Bonita Kelly, from the Chicago area, asked all of us to write our hopes and fears on a piece of paper regarding the upcoming session.

Honestly, I just wanted to learn more about “White Privilege,” and wanted to prove to myself that I did not exercise it in any way, shape or form.

In advance of the retreat, team members were given research material focusing on these issues. One essay, written by Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, suggested that whites have been taught not to recognize white privilege in the same manner that men are taught not to recognize male privilege.

I find this statement incredibly true on so many levels.

During Saturday’s session, the facilitators used an example of walking into a restaurant and seeing many people of color waiting in line to order, only to see the person at the register handle your order first.

That’s white privilege. I have seen this happen several times. While I can’t remember every instance I have seen this happen, I can recall saying I would wait until the people in front of me were waited on.

Burge and Kelly both discussed how the mere topic of racism is uncomfortable to discuss. And while I believe this to be true to a certain degree, I also believe if one is comfortable in one’s own skin and is capable of having a discussion with anyone at any given moment, feeling uncomfortable isn’t such a bad thing from time to time.

The committee also took time to meet following the last session Saturday, a meeting which included discussion regarding the 2015 retreat, including a possible topic.

Those interested in learning more about the Sisters of Providence Anti-Racism Committee are encouraged to do so by contacting either Sister Mary Beth Klingel at mklingel@spsmw.org or Sister Patty Fillenwarth at pattyfillenwarth@sbcglobal.net.

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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