The Priority for 'Generation Next'

October 23, 2009

By Katy Wheat, GCORR Intern

Band-Aids got my attention. "Neat, flesh colored, and almost invisible," claimed the 1940s era television advertisement - well, almost invisible, but only if you happened to have white or near white skin. Until two years ago, I had never noticed 'little' things like the color of Band-Aids, the 'nude' (whose nude?) color of women's pantyhose, or the lack of per­sons of color in my favorite television shows - that is, until I attended a power and privilege workshop as part of my training to become a US-2 young Adult Missionary. The two-day session opened my eyes, and now I see the open wounds and slowly heal­ing scars caused by white privilege and racism everywhere. .
 
I am brand-new at the General Commission on Religion and Race, hav­ing just begun my work with the organization September 21. As a first-year student at Wesley Theological Seminary, I am on the Deacon track mov­ing towards ordination in the United Methodist Church. As a US-2, I was commissioned by the General Board of Global Ministries to work within the missions department at Foundry United Methodist Church in Wash­ington DC. My time there was transformative - working with traditionally marginalized groups like Hispano/Latino jornaleros (day laborers).
 
I became passionate about grassroots reform and a better understanding of the injuries racism continues to inflict here in the United States. I joined GCORR as an intern specifically because of the work it does to create cultures of awareness around racism locally, globally, and especially in our church.
 
If the White privilege movement is to gain momentum in the United Methodist Church, I believe young people must be considered vital to the effort. I would like to think that we in the so-called "Generation Next" see the importance of dismantling racism differently than folks in older gener­ations. I cannot speak for all the members of my generation - but personally, I do not care to associate myself with a church where no one is different. How boring! And I'm not talking about inclusivity for inclusivity's sake. I am talking about the full Body of Christ present in our church, like Paul shares in his letter to the Corinthians, "if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?" We cannot be a community of just one group - just a bunch of eyes. We must be the whole body.
 
And so while some generations may see dismantling racism as an important next step in the life of the church, I believe those in my generation see it as the only next step. It is impera­tive. It is essential. Our commitment to end racism is a step towards our own salvation. Only when we commit to end racism in ourselves and the church can we work towards healing and wholeness as a Body. And only when we are focused on a common goal will we succeed
 
To begin reaching that goal my focus will be on building relationships with young adults committed to the eradication of white privilege and racism in the structure of the United Methodist Church. In my first weeks at GCORR, I will reach out to several UMC young adult groups, including the young Adult Seminarian's Network; the Steering Committee of Stu­dent Forum, which is supported by the United Methodist Student Move­ment; the Office of young Adult Ministries of the General Board of Discipleship; and the young Adult Missionaries of the GBGM. I hope to connect with them through Facebook, blogs, and most importantly, with seminars at regional gatherings and national conferences focused on building a white anti-racism movement led by the young adults of the church. The only way to begin dismantling racism is by creating a culture of awareness around the prejudices and bigotries that divide us. The only way we may create this culture is if we are united.