2001-02-09 Lakeshore Press Racism summit will give attendees power to care and dare

Racism summit will give attendees power to care and dare
Lakeshore Press

As the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism approaches on Tuesday, I am reminded ofa few words from my friends and Lakota pastor, the Rev. Leon Matthews.

While on the Pine Ridge reservation last week, I observed as he addressed a group of Lakota people gathered to plan for a new school, one that will be of, by and for the Lakota nation.

“We have this opportunity to organize this indigenously,” he said. “But I do not mean indigenous in the sense that it be exclusively Lakota. I mean it in the community sense. Indigenously local. All of us who truly care about the vision of this school.”

It is in this spirit that I would encourage those to meet in the summit at Hope College. In the spirit of “indigenous” as in “community.”

We are not so naïve to believe that the entire geographic community will be committed to or even interested in addressing issues of racism in the Lakeshore region. Some attending the summit may not act out this commitment.

We can, however, find among those who do come a different kind of community – one united to forge a genuine band of dedicated people ingenuously envisioning the elimination of racism and its effects on residents of their geographic area.

This community can transcend all the societal barriers that have perpetuated the racism making this summit necessary in the year 2001.

This is a community that has at its core the belief that where one suffers the effects of racism, the whole community suffers.

From this community comes the empowerment to not only “care” but to dare. To cooperate and advocate for justice and against racist attitudes and acts wherever they surface in the geographic community.

The spirit guiding this indigenous community overwhelms all obstacles because it is cumulative. Its power is magnified by the people involved. Even if that community numbers few, their commitment is a power of magnified proportions.

In suggesting an indigenous community perspective, I do not advocate wiping out the “indigenous” perspectives relative to race and self-determination. I celebrate these distinctions. I hear danger in those promoting “color blindness” which can blur the diversity we come to celebrate.

If we are a community of advocates for equality, we are not defined by cultural root – Dutch, Hispanic, African American, Native American or Asian American – which sets up majority/minority distinctions.

In my belief system, I understand that within the spirit of God we find ourselves modeled.

When we see through this spirit, we understand from whom we all came and to whom we shall return.

In the meantime, while we are here together, we are able to move ahead in this spirit to the summit.

My prayer for those who attend the summit is that they leave with a new identify – as citizens of an unique “indigenous community” and such, be recognized by their advocacy to “promote racial inclusion” – the work to which the summit is calling us.