In light of the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arber, we simply say Black Lives Matter and Silence is Compliance.
As an outreach of New Creation Fellowship Church, a member of Mennonite Church USA, we share words from our executive director, Glen Guyton:
It does not happen often, but I am at a loss for words as cities across the United States burn, and as I have endured several weeks of seeing black bodies sacrificed in the name of order and discipline. I am torn between being an enraged black man and being a leader in a predominantly white institution, united by theology and, for many, a common ancestry.
The most recent names that have shredded my heart are George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. I watched in horror as a woman named Amy Cooper, walking her unleashed dog attempted to weaponize the police against Christian Cooper, who simply wanted to peacefully watch birds in Central Park. Christian Cooper, like me, is an African American man. The language used on that call means that any black male, me or my son could have fit the description, giving the responding officers a license to kill with the qualified immunity that withholds justice. If I am honest, the Amy’s of the world scare me more than the white supremacist that I can easily identify and avoid.
It has taken me some time to draft this letter because I have been torn by my anger, my fear, my Christian faith and my Anabaptist commitment to peace. Systems of racial power would like nothing better than for leaders like me to lay my blackness and pain aside; they are part of what shapes my identity. But as a leader, I am called to push down my fear and sadness. I need to call upon the people of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA).
WE NEED TO ENGAGE IN MORE COSTLY PEACEMAKING, ROOTED IN RADICAL DISCIPLESHIP, WHICH SEEKS TO DISMANTLE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION.
The violence and unrest that is happening now is not an accident; it is what the system is designed to do, and it jeopardizes all of us, not just people of color. Stand with the marginalized in your communities. If you have the power of privilege, use it as a shield to protect people of color who don’t have it. Use your voice and your power to prompt action from local government officials. Create spaces for reconciliation, healing and hope.
I am determined not to allow the past and present circumstances of systemic oppression to make me feel powerless. For many in the white community, including our Mennonite family, my skin color is a barrier. It is a consideration that I can’t easily set aside. But for many of you in MC USA, your race is not a barrier but rather an advantage you can use to dismantle racial injustice in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need your voice. We need to #BringthePeace.
see full statement here.
On diversity and steps towards anti-racism in our classroom:
We will view children as individuals and not separate by category in conversation or practice.
We believe that for children to develop a sense of belonging they must see themselves, their families, and their communities represented throughout our school in books, posters, artwork, family sets, dolls, cooking utensils, environmental print in their languages, photographs, etc. and we work to meet that.
Representation should not be reflective of classroom populations, it should be equal. If there are three children of color and 12 white children in the class, having a few books representing people of color isn’t adequate.
Young children think in simple terms they tend to think in stereotypes. Thus, one of our tasks in supporting diversity is to continually challenge young children’s simple thinking about gender, race, ethnicity, culture, families, religion, income, language, etc. While we believe there is value in children feeling comfortable and around people who are like them, we must provide opportunities for investigating and exploring differences, newness, and what is unfamiliar. One way we encourage this behavior is for teachers to model a joy and enthusiasm in discovery, exploration, and uncertainty.
From Francis Wardle: “Supporting diversity in early childhood programs is a two-pronged process: helping children to feel good about themselves, their families, and their communities, and also exposing children to differences, things that are unfamiliar, and experiences beyond their immediate lives. In doing so we must make sure these experiences are real and concrete, and that they continually challenge young children’s stereotypical thinking. We must insist on tolerance and respect toward all who are different. Finally, this process must be continuous and ongoing, not simply addressed on convenient occasions and implemented as an add-on to the curriculum.”