The Episcopal Diocese   
of Western Massachusetts


21st Century Congregations --  July 2015
Steve Abdow, Canon for Mission Resources

Striving for Justice, Respecting Human Dignity



A year ago I had the great fortune to attend a two day workshop called "Healing Racism." The workshop is the core program of a recently organized group named the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley. The Institute came as a result of a Western Massachusetts leadership group visit to Grand Rapids, Michigan where they learned of an ongoing program put on by that city's Institute for Healing Racism, involving more than 2,000 individuals over the past 15 years. A small group from Western Mass returned to Grand Rapids to experience the two-day Facing Racism program first hand. Upon returning, the Healing Racism two-day program and curriculum was established, and hundreds of local individuals representing a wide range of leadership in the Pioneer Valley have participated.


I was truly transformed by the experience. I had little understanding of the components of systemic racism and of white privilege. My eyes were opened. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • I am much more privilege than I know. I have an unearned advantage which gives me a competitive edge I am reluctant to even acknowledge, much less give up.
  • I cannot understand what it is like for people of color to live in my community and country. I have no idea of the kind of injustices and slights people who I know and work with in my community face in their life on a regular basis.
  • I can leave my ethnicity behind.
  • Arthur Ashe, after he contracted the AIDS virus, was asked, "Is this the hardest thing you've ever had to deal with?" And he said, "No, the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with is being a black man in this society."
  • Institutional racism is by its very nature invisible.
  • We have a history of white supremacy in this country that began with the arrival of the first European settlers and has not subsided to the extent we would like to believe it has.

Last week I attended a reunion of those of us who've been through the program. It helped me remember that I have a responsibility as a Christian to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of all human beings. So I am sharing my experience with you in the hope of encouraging greater understanding of the existence of systemic racism and white privilege in our society.


If you are interested in attending the workshop you can learn more at this link: Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley. Don't hesitate to contact me for more info.


Additional material:

Click through on this link and take a few minutes to watch the video that provides an answer to the question, Is Racism Over Yet?


The Episcopal Church has done tremendous work in the area of Healing Racism. Read the Church's 2015 report on by clicking here: