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White Fragility

08/21/2020 02:19:26 PM


This past week we entered the Jewish month of Elul.  As we enter Elul, we use this month as a time of self-reflection and soul searching of our actions.  It is a period to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days. The Maharal of Prague said this about the month of Elul, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into his soul and search his deeds, that he may make confession.”

This week also marked our first book club meeting.  All year long we will be exploring different books along the theme of racism.  This month’s book was “White Fragility”.  We had a wonderful conversation led by our own Elaine Shapiro.  The book challenges white people to get past their defensiveness about racism and examine their own actions.  It is not an easy book to read but it is an important one.  It asks us to do two of the hardest things for a person to do -- be aware and be honestly self-critical.  The point of the book is not to make the reader feel bad, but to grow and change their actions.    In many ways this was the perfect book to read upon entering the month of Elul.

In the book, the author Robin DiAngelo offers the reader some questions on which to reflect to become more self-aware of our complicity in racism.  The questions are:

  • Why does being honest about this particular behavior unsettle me?
  • What would it mean for me if this were true?
  • How does this lens change my understanding of racial dynamic?
  • How can my unease help reveal the unexamined assumptions I have been making?
  • Is it possible that because I am white, there are some racial dynamics I can’t see?
  • Am I willing to consider that possibility?
  • If I am not willing to do so, then why not?

(Reference White Fragility page 14)

These are not easy questions.  However, they are questions that if answered honestly and acted upon, can change the dynamics of race in this country.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days to turn thoughts into action.  They are days to shift the tide of injustice to justice.  We need to ask, “In this past year, and in our lifetime, how have we been complicit in perpetuating injustice?”  If you can look at the questions above and think about them honestly, we will be able to in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

To loosen the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke!”

Shabbat Shalom!

Thu, September 24 2020 6 Tishrei 5781