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Naming It

Greetings WAC Community,

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air.  He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each creature, that was its name. – Genesis 2:19

When I was 12 years old, my mother had surgery to remove a tumor.  She feared that the tumor meant cancer and that the doctors were not telling her.  At that time, being diagnosed with cancer was telling someone that dying was the only option.  Commonly doctors held back from informing their patients about it.  A different philosophy by health care providers today is that we need to know the truth.  Naming diseases is important for many reasons.

Our society has a major disease.  It is called “racism.”  Naming it is important.  But as I work on seeking effective treatment, some seem hesitant to name it.  “It sounds too negative,” one person told me.  One suggestion I received is that I remove the words “Recognizing Racism” from the title of the workshop we are leading in Laramie on January 31st.  (The title is “Doing Justice in a Red State: Recognizing Racism; Embracing Diversity.”)  To do that would be like telling someone what treatment is need, but not letting them know the name of the disease that they have.

That’s denial.  Denial is common for addictions such as alcoholism, where denial is considered one of the symptoms.  Dennis Adams, a peer counselor in Riverton, in fact, compares racism as a disease similar to alcoholism.

A mammogram saved my life nine years ago.  But research and my own experience is that telling other women how a mammogram saves lives does not inspire them to schedule one for themselves.  It’s is as if we don’t know, then nothing is wrong.  The same thing keeps us from acknowledging racism.  If we don’t know about it, then we do not need to deal with it.  But if we don’t deal with it, racism is going to destroy us.  All of us.  Not just the victims of racism, but our entire society.

The first step to getting treatment for cancer is accepting that we have it.  The first step to addressing racism is accepting that currently institutional racism is epidemic.  It is so rampant that we don’t recognize the symptoms.  It has affected our personal biases, whatever our descent, European or otherwise.  The word “race” cannot be genetically or scientifically defined, but is a social construct that destroys.

Before we accept treatment and be healed, we need to acknowledge the disease.

Save the date:  January 31, 2016, 4 – 8 pm, “Doing Justice in a Red State: Recognizing Racism; Embracing Diversity,” in Laramie.  More details to come.

Fear not.  Be bold.  Do justice.



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