IRT’s Call to Anti-Racism

IRT

Image Description: The logo of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. There is a light blue background. The letters ‘i’, ‘r’, and ‘t; are in white, and inside the letters, there are a number of religious symbols in blue.

Together with Dwight Wilson, I serve as the Co-Director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. This week, we released a statement on behalf of IRT with a call to anti-racism. Today, I will share that here.

IRT’s Call to Anti-Racism

In the midst of a pandemic, as we enter the summer of 2020, the nation has been raging because of a series of racist attacks, many of which have led to deaths, and some of which have been initiated by our employees in uniform. Coupled with these abominations have been frequent denials of responsibility. In the 1960s, civil unrest was almost a yearly occurrence. In more than fifty years, society should have advanced further. Instead, open wounds remain in Washtenaw County because of different interpretations of the 2014 police killing of Aura Rosser in Ann Arbor; Black students protesting their treatment at both Saline High School and Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School; and a well-circulated tape of a law enforcement officer using his fists on Sha’Teina Grady El, an unarmed Ypsilanti woman. More pain and outrage have challenged us recently because of the months-long delay in justice for Ahmad Arbury and the nationally published law enforcement officer deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

The Interfaith Round Table believes that we each deserve love and justice. It is the duty of spiritually grounded people of faith to take an anti-racist stand and help lead the country to positive change. IRT is calling those who want to help us heal the nation to come forward. We are asking each person and community to look within ourselves and our systems. Moreover, after silent reflection, we are asking each person and community to join us in open dialogues with people of different races and faiths. When so many of the ties that should bind us are in disarray, we are called to either reform or dismantle that which keeps us from being a just society. Continuing on the same brambled path seems certain to make this wilderness a maze.

When we bring our best selves to listen to each other we deepen our respect for cultures that may be unlike our own. By making sincere efforts to communicate peacefully we remember the lessons taught by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. These were two men of different faiths and cultures who gave their lives to move the world closer to recognized and lived kinship.

Yours in the Light,

Dwight L. Wilson and Renee Roederer,
Co-Directors

IRT Board

Collaborative Leadership

Red arrow formed from pieces by people cooperating and working together

Image Description: Silhouettes of people are all walking in the same direction to the left. They are each holding a piece of red arrow that’s pointing to the left.

Every morning, I receive daily email meditations from Richard Rohr. I love them, and I recommend them to people all the time.

Richard Rohr sent a piece about collaborative leadership, juxtaposing it with the kind of leadership that dominates and determines decisions alone. He lifted up what is possible when leaders and entire communities begin to create cultures of collaboration. I like his list, so I’m going to share it today:

Here are some insights into what every good, servant-hearted, nondual leader knows and practices, whether in community, in the workplace, or in the classroom. Creative leaders:

  • are seers of alternatives.
  • move forward by influencing events and inspiring people more than by ordering or demanding.
  • know that every one-sided solution is doomed to failure. It is never a lasting solution but only a postponement of the problem.
  • learn to study, discern, and search together with others for solutions.
  • know that total dilemmas are very few. We create many dilemmas because we are internally stuck, attached, fearful, over-identified with our position, needy of winning the case, or unable to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering.
  • know that wisdom is ‘the art of the possible.’ The key question is no longer ‘How can I problem solve now and get this off my plate?” It is “How can this situation achieve good for the largest number and for future generations?’
  • continue finding and sharing new data and possibilities until they can work toward consensus from all sides.
  • want to increase both freedom and ownership among the group—not subservience, which will ultimately sabotage the work anyway.
  • emphasize the why of a decision and show how it is consistent with the group’s values.”

We can cultivate this kind of leadership. The challenge, of course, is learning how to organize communities in these ways when there are so many cultural pulls to keep organizing ourselves in top-down models. But new ways are always possible. They lead to an empowered community.

And sometimes, a community has to become empowered enough to say, “We want that.” When this happens, the community itself is the leader.

Renee Roederer

Taking Heart

heart flowers

Image Description: Three pink flowers on a vine, each in the shape of a heart. A blue sky is in the background.

What would feel like to take heart just a little bit more today?

To remind yourself that people are indeed working for good in the world, even in the midst of pain?

To remind yourself that you’ve been surprised at other times, so why not be surprised by goodness again?

To remind yourself that taking heart, while vulnerable, is really giving heart by allowing yourself to have hope and trust, and that this can actually lean into the creation of goodness in the world? Especially it takes to imagination? Especially when it takes to action?

We know that hope needs imagination and action.

Your neighbor is worth that risk.

You’re worth that risk.

Renee Roederer

Weeds

IMG_8654

Image Description: A brown bin says “Compost” in white letters. A large amount of pulled weeds are inside. One long plant is hanging out of the bin.

I pulled a whole heckuva lot of weeds over the weekend. If I may be honest, I found this to be fun. Perhaps there was something cathartic and soothing about it.

The most satisfying weed to pull was a particularly long and windy kind. It has a system of stems and leaves connected to a shared vine. It’s the kind pictured above, spilling out of the compost bin. This plant — I don’t know its name — wove its way effectively and adeptly around my day lily plants. And most of it was hidden and out of view.

I’d find one piece and begin to pull on it. Then I’d discover much more, a system all connected.

I reflected on the beliefs we carry…

… about ourselves,
… about our relationships,
… about our neighbors,
… about the ways we structure our society,

and this plant seemed to convey a lot.

Sometimes, within ourselves, there are whole, connected systems of beliefs, fears, and emotional triggers that need to be explored and healed. Sometimes, within our communities, there are large, connected systems of harm intended to bolster some and disadvantage others.

We have to start somewhere — pulling, uncovering connections, examining, and uprooting.

Renee Roederer

Mental Health Monday: Sitting, Noticing

meditation, buddha, statue, lotus, garden, peace, glow, buddhist ...

Image description: A statue of the Buddha, sitting. One palm rests on his leg and the other is lifted, facing us. This statue is in a forrest, and green and red leaves are in the background.

I serve as the Co-Director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County, and in that role, I have the privilege of visiting many communities during their worship and times of spiritual practice. Due to our pandemic, most of these communities are not meeting in person but are using technological platforms to connect virtually. This week, I joined the Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor for their Sunday service.

I sat outside on my deck, stilled myself, connected with my body, and listened. I heard the sound of so many birds with their various calls. I heard neighbors multiple streets away using a weed eater and a leaf blower. I wondered… what’s the farthest sound I can hear right now?

When I asked that question, I heard birds chirping on the recording from the temple. Yes, those are across town and certainly the farthest away.

In all the upheaval of these days, it’s a great gift to simply sit still, check in with our bodies, and notice. When we slow down and notice, we can have greater pleasure and connection with all that’s around us.

Renee Roederer

Disability-Inclusive Protest Etiquette: A Guide

Today, I’d like to share some slides from two Instagram accounts which engage the intersections of race and disability. The first comes from @diversability, and the second comes from @strengthcenteredspeech. For those who are using screen readers, I will share the text below the images.

Image may contain: text that says 'Slide by @diversibility More than half of Black people with disabilities in the United States will be arrested by the time they reach their late 20s. RESEARCH BY ERIN MCCAULEY, MED, MA (2017) #BLACKLIVESMATTER @diversability'

Slide by @diversibility, black background, white text:

Text: More than half of Black people with disabilities in the United States will be arrested by the time they reach their late 20s.

Research by Erin J. McCauley, Med. MA (2017)

No photo description available.

No photo description available.

Slide by @strengthcenteredspeech brown background, white, yellow, and pink text:

Disability-inclusive protest etiquette: a guide

#blacklivesmatter

Remember that many disabled people will not be able to attend protests due to their disability or associated risks, no matter how much they want to be there.

— Avoid saying things like:
“Just show up”
“the front lines are where the real work is done”
“Get off the couch and join us”
They are ableist, shaming, and unhelpful.

— There are many ways to be involved, such as organizing, donating time, money, sharing information, and doing daily and committed work. “Doing the work” is not unique to the front lines and does not start or end there.

— Some disabled people will be attending protests alongside you. Understand that you will not always know who they are, as many disabilities are invisible.

— Respect people’s space. Some may be distancing due to increased health risks. This is especially true during a pandemic. NEVER touch or crowd anyone who is walking off to the side or suggesting in any way they want space.

— Do not touch or help physically disabled people or their mobility aids (wheelchairs, walkers, etc.) unless they directly ask. And please don’t tell them you’re inspired by them — this is ableist and offensive.

— This is an absolute rule: never assume someone is “faking” if you see them in a wheelchair one minute and out the next. Many disabled people can walk, but due to the nature of their disability are required to use a wheelchair in certain contexts.

Contact organizers to help ensure protests are accessible before the event

Specific actions you can request include:

— encouraging each march to have a rally alternative for people to congregate

— checking in about access to ramps and restrooms, as well as interpreters

— If possible, providing mobility aids and a team devoted to disability access in case needs arrive last-minute

— ensuring that all organized protest language is anti-ableist

Accessibility should be built in, not tacked on.

Educate yourself: black disabled people should never be an afterthought, especially when it comes to police brutality.

— Disabled people make up between one third and one half of all people killed by police, according to multiple studies (including at 2016 study by the Ruderman Foundation). Black Americans with disabilities are even more at-risk. Few make headlines.

— This issue is CENTRAL to the black disabled community. Learn the names of black disabled victims of police violence. Advocate for measures that protect disabled people wherever you discuss police deescalation techniques or community alternatives to policing.

— Remember that ALL black lives matter. If you’re not concerned with the lives of all disabled people, you are not a part of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

 

I’ve Had a Buddy This Weekend

IMG_8622

IMG_8626

Image Descriptions: Two pictures of a golden doodle resting his head on my leg. I’m wearing red and black plaid pajama pants.

I’ve had a little buddy with me this weekend. He’s my friend’s golden doodle pup, and I got to watch him last night. He’s a very cuddly friend, and I think we both enjoyed our time together.

I’ve noticed this about him:

He’s nearly always aware of me. He follows me around the house. He watches me. He lies at my feet. He explores the house, sniffing things, but then he looks at me here and there to anchor and orient himself.

It makes me wonder…

To what… to do I orient myself? What am I aware of? What’s in my consciousness? Who and what are my anchors? Who and what do I attune toward?

Renee Roederer

Might We Consider Abolition? (In Practice, Part II)

Good morning, friends.

Yesterday, I posted a piece called Might We Consider Abolition? with slides from @conflicttransformation on Instagram. As I said in that piece, the Movement for Black Lives seeks more than police reforms. Many Black leaders within this movement are calling for abolition from the system of policing altogether. How might we dream other models for public safety? What if we could imagine something different — something more safe and non-militarized? Something that honors material and social needs? Something that is trauma-informed? Something that is restorative rather than punitive? Something that is transformative and liberating?

I know this is a new idea for many people. I’m still learning and growing in these questions myself.

I think two areas of concern often rise to the surface pretty immediately when people (especially white people) first encounter the concept of abolition from policing:

— How could this possibly work? What if — (insert a lot of scenarios)
— What are you saying about my loved one who works in law enforcement? What will happen to that person if — (insert a lot of scenarios)

Let me first echo the words of my friend, mentor, and colleague Dwight Wilson who has done a great deal of work to try to increase police oversight by the community: “We can do this peacefully and we can do it with love. Do not bring hatred to my table. I neither consume it nor pass it on to poison others.”

I am not interested in demonizing any individuals. We spend a lot of time trying to justify ourselves and our loved ones as good people. I do this sometimes too. As I’ve posted here recently, one form of racism in my own life and practice is my attempt to be One of the ‘Good Whites’. (If this sentence or link title upsets you, please read it first to understand what I’m saying and what kind of harm my mindset can do).

As I heard someone share this week, what point do we ask,

What do we need to do for society to be good?

Isn’t that the most pressing question?

In light of all these questions, I’d like to share this Twitter thread from Bridget Eileen (@travelingnun):

It begins with,

“Do you or somebody you know think that #AbolishThePolice is unrealistic? It might be because you haven’t taken the time to understand what it means, the reasons for it, and why it actually makes a lot of sense. [Thread]”

Please click here to read her whole thread on that topic. 

IMG_8598

And this is being considered in practice. The Minneapolis City Council is considering measures to disband the Minneapolis Police Department (see this article). Council member Steve Fletcher says, “Several of us on the council are working on finding out what it would take to disband the Minneapolis Police Department and start fresh with a community-oriented, nonviolent public safety and outreach capacity.”

Renee Roederer

This piece is the second of a two-part series. You can read the other post here:
Might We Consider Abolition? 

An important addendum (added 6/20/20)

I’d like to link to a piece by Amber Hughson, entitled But Actually Imagine Transformative Alternatives to Policing.

Amber Hughson is the creator of these flyers linked in the post, Might We Consider Abolition? . She has deep concerns about how they are being used and talked about in some circles. Sh wants us to do what the title to her piece says… actually imagine transformative alternatives to policing.

She asks us to do this and also share her piece if we’ve shared her flyers. I’m doing that here and in other places too.

 

 

 

Might We Consider Abolition?

The Movement for Black Lives seeks more than police reforms. Many Black leaders within this movement are calling for abolition from the system of policing altogether. How might we dream other models for public safety? What if we could imagine something different — something more safe and non-militarized? Something that honors material and social needs? Something that is trauma-informed? Something that is restorative rather than punitive? Something that is transformative and liberating?

Today, I want to share these images and questions from @conflicttransformation on Instagram. (Image Descriptions at the bottom of this post).

Image may contain: text

Image may contain: text

Image may contain: text

Image may contain: text

Image may contain: text that says 'INCIDENTS OF GUN VIOLENCE ARE RISING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. IMAGINE... A TRAUMA INFORMED CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAM WORKS WITH COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS TO DISARM AND DEESCALATE CONFLICTS. PEOPLE DOING HARM ARE CONNECTED TO SERVICES THAT ADDRESS THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM. isn't that public safety?'

Does this seem impossible in your thinking? Let’s imagine…

Six Ideas of a Cop-Free World by José Martín
The Answer to Police Violence Is Not ‘Reform.’ It’s Defunding. Here’s Why by Alex S. Vitale

Image Descriptions:

Image 1: Black text on a periwinkle background reads, “You are experiencing a mental health crisis & afraid imagine… …you call +311 & a first responder trained in mental health comes to your door. 1 hour later, you are in a safe place with your consent, with plans for follow up care. isn’t that public safety?”

Image 2: Black text on an orange background reads, “Some folks are sleeping on benches in the park. Imagine… …a city employee comes by & checks in to see if they need a place to sleep, food, water, or health care. An hour later, those who want a different place to sleep have one. Isn’t that public safety?”

Image 3: Black text on a pinkish purple background reads: “You are experiencing intimate partner violence. Imagine… …texting a number & a trauma informed crisis intervention specialist meets you in a safe place. An hour later you are working together to make a plan that will keep you safe long term. isn’t that public safety?”

Image 4: Black text on a yellow background reads, “Someone is behaving erratically and is in harms way. Imagine… texting a number & an an unarmed urgent responder trained in behavioral and mental health comes within 5 minutes. An hour later that person is safe & getting the support they need. Isn’t that public safety?

Image 5: Black text on a blue background reads “Incidents of gun violence are rising in the neighborhood. Imagine… …a trauma informed crisis intervention team works with community activists to disarm and deescalate conflicts. People doing harm are connected to services that address the underlying problem. Isn’t that public safety?”

This post is the first of a two-part series. You can read the other post here:
Might We Consider Abolition? (In Practice, Part II)

An important addendum (added 6/20/20)

I’d like to link to a piece by Amber Hughson, entitled But Actually Imagine Transformative Alternatives to Policing.

Amber Hughson is the creator of these flyers, and she has deep concerns about how they are being used and talked about in some circles. She wants us to do what the title to her piece says… actually imagine transformative alternatives to policing.

She asks us to do this and also share her piece if we’ve shared her flyers. I’m doing that here and in other places too.