by Catherine Maresca
Note: Catechists and families in CGS tend to be white. This piece is primarily addressed to those catechists, myself included, to encourage contributions to the work of anti-racism, and the creation of a space of welcome for all families, with gratitude for the faithful friendship and patience of women of color among us. -CWM
Friends, our time with children in the atrium is suspended, indefinitely for many. And the murder, before our eyes, of George Floyd has ignited once again a nationwide imperative to search ourselves, and the organizations we are part of, for embedded bias and racism. We have an opportunity to do the personal work and environmental work to make our atriums a place of welcome for all, a place where the Beloved Community can truly be nurtured.
I do believe that there is not one of you who would be unkind to any child entering your atrium. But we have to dig a little deeper than our open-hearted intentions.
Have you sorted out for yourself the grace and courtesy of a conversation about racism?
Have you developed in yourself some knowledge of the experience of African Americans in our country? How the history, the daily slights, the fear of certain situations weighs upon the community and shapes each member in some way.
Have you learned to appreciate the cultural wealth of the Black community? The music, the writings, the humor, the fabrics, the styles, the art, the storytelling have been vital contributions to American life.
Do you give yourself opportunities to be with African Americans in their churches, their businesses, their universities, their jazz venues, and their neighborhoods?
Have you considered how accessible CGS may or may not be to people of color in your communities? Or the cost of becoming a formation leader? How can we create accessibility and welcome for adults in CGS?
Have you begun to see the images, art, books, and materials of your atrium through the eyes of non-white children? Does anything there say, “Welcome! We were thinking of you when we created this, or chose this”? Or do we say to Black children and their families, “I mean everyone when I paint the sheep white,” or “I mean all the world where the Roman Plan of God focuses on Europe and the Biblical lands.” Why do we make people of color do the extra work of imagining themselves as part of God’s household, rather than include them visually in every part of the atrium?
We know from the work of Montessori that young children have absorbent minds, learning lessons we may not have intended to teach. So let’s be rigorous in a search together for words, images, attitudes, books, and lessons, that communicate the exclusion, or invisibility, of people of color.
Five minutes on Facebook, the CGSUSA website, or a conversation with anyone doing ABAR (anti-bias anti-racist) work will yield a good reading or podcast list to start this work. The sin of racism is hundreds of years old. The work of eradicating racism, and making amends for the country’s abuse of people of color will not end in our lifetime. But the rich diversity of culture and peoples in the United States also creates opportunities not found in every country. The path of radical welcome is one we can walk together, finding the joy of the Beloved Community as well as working through the pain and horror of racism in our midst. It is not a path we can avoid. Wherever you are on this path of anti-racism, commit to taking another step, and join with others in your atrium, your church, your school, or community to help each other along the way.
I Pray That All May be One from CGSUSA: https://www.cgsusa.org/i-pray-that-they-all-may-be-one-john-1721/