×

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Contemplation and Racism

Unlearning Racism

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Contemplation and Racism

Unlearning Racism
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is an author, minister, and contemplative activist. The interview with CAC’s Daily Meditations editor Mark Longhurst, which we have excerpted here, was published in 2018, but his reflections on freedom from what he calls “slaveholder religion,” contemplation, and action are especially relevant today.

My journey toward freedom from slaveholder religion has been one of unlearning a hyper-individualized piety. [This is what I would call an obsession with our individual salvation project—RR] . . . I’ve had to learn that this is a spiritual version of the myth of the self-made man or woman that [the social systems that privilege] whiteness created.

Jonathan shares about his prayer practices and how the practice of confessing sin helps him dwell in solidarity with the marginalized:

We need relationships of accountability—spaces where we listen to black and brown folks say what actions are hurting them and their communities. Given the power imbalances in our society, confession for white folks really has to be something of a reverse confessional. It’s not the job of people who’ve suffered generational injustice to sit and listen to us. No, we’ve got to position ourselves to sit and listen to them. Then talk to one another about how we can unlearn implicit bias, leverage social privilege for the common good, and follow the leadership of impacted people working for systemic justice. The daily practice of confession is a radical act of listening.

Wilson-Hartgrove finds that communal spirituality and action for justice has helped liberate him from the individualistic, self-made myth of systemic whiteness:

[The] antidote [to hyper-individualized spirituality] is, in many ways, in the communal contemplative practices of the black-led freedom movement in America. I’m thinking about the prayer practices of song and shout in Pentecostal churches, of call and response in black Baptist preaching. There’s a mantra-like repetition in that experience of worship that is every bit as much contemplation as you find sitting in silence. In fact, it is a silence—a still point of complete simplicity—that’s beyond words. For me, I find that silence in the praise and testimony service at the St. John’s Baptist Church, and I find it singing and marching in the streets with the Poor People’s Campaign.

At the same time, Jonathan cherishes stillness, embodying a true “centering down,” in the words of Howard Thurman, that can take place just about anywhere.

The silence of the early morning is why I wake early. I can’t be myself without it. But as I grow in the life of faith, I feel more and more the connection between that silence and the silence at the center of [a mourning mother’s] cry—the silence of the down beat between the claps in a freedom song. There is a still point in the turning world, and we practice contemplation as we ground ourselves in that place, not apart from action, but in the center of it.

Reference:
Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, “Prayer, Action and Unlearning Racism,” interview with Mark Longhurst, Ordinary Mystic (May 29, 2019). Available at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/ordinarymystic/2019/05/jonathan-wilson-hartgrove-on-prayer-action-and-unlearning-racism/

Image credit: Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music (detail), Alma Thomas, 1976, Smithsonian American Art Museum, bequest of the artist, 1980.36.2A-C, Washington, DC.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The question is whether or not we will recognize our wounds and the source of our anger so that we can heal ourselves and others, and awaken to our potential to embody the beloved community. —Barbara Holmes
Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.


Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Nothing Stands Alone. What could happen if we embraced the idea of God as relationship—with ourselves, each other, and the world? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.