A Spiritual Reflection on Critical Race Theory and America


As I researched my ancestors, I began to include simple historical dates and facts about slavery in the U.S. to get a clearer picture of the context. The result? Slavery was no longer something that happened to "those people," but it became a real thing in which my family participated and from which they benefited. As to Native Americans, I realized that the "new" lands my colonial ancestors purchased or otherwise settled on came from indigenous tribes who were pushed westward or otherwise extinguished. Is this uncomfortable? Yes. Does it make me feel guilty? Yes. Was I personally there? No. But it helps me understand the broader story of America from the perspective of African Americans and Native Americans, whose stories on this land is just as important as that of European settlers. ection on this controversial topic.


You see, I started doing my own personal version of CRT a few years ago. I realized there was much I didn't know about slavery in this country, about Reconstruction after "The Slaveholders' Rebellion" (The Civil War), as I like to call it, and the perspective of Native Americans. I had already discovered that many lines of my family included slaveholders and that many of my ancestors had been here since colonial times. Many also fought for the Confederacy in the Slaveholders' Rebellion. I wondered, what did this mean for me spiritually, especially as a white person practicing Vodou, an Africa diaspora religion created by folks who were enslaved?


As I researched my ancestors, I began to include simple historical dates and facts about slavery in the U.S. to get a clearer picture of the context. The result? Slavery was no longer something that happened to "those people," but it became a real thing in which my family participated and from which they benefited. As to Native Americans, I realized that the "new" lands my colonial ancestors purchase or otherwise settled on came from indigenous tribes who were pushed westward or otherwise extinguished. Is this uncomfortable? Yes. Does it make me feel guilty? Yes. Was I personally there? No. But it helps me understand the broader story of America from the perspective of African Americans and Native Americans, whose stories on this land are just as important as that of European settlers.


For me, this is spiritual. I am the sum of all my ancestors, the good and the bad and the in-between. Their choices don't determine everything I do, but their personalities and choices have made me who I am. They gave me the building blocks, so to speak. What I do with those blocks, however, is up to me. I feel like my ancestors are calling me to make different choices than they did. That means understanding this country's racist past and its genocide of Native tribes. I will no longer perpetrate the racism on which this country was built and from which it has prospered. Does this make you uncomfortable? Good. I believe we are not just disconnected individuals birthed with a blank slate and no connection to the past. It's an illusion to think so. Who we are in large part is because of who our people are, and this goes way back.


I see now that I grew up in a racist society, and especially having grown up in North Carolina, I was literally swimming in it but had no idea. Racism was in the air I breathed from the moment I was born. I just finished reading a great book about this, called Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule. The author's experience was more intensely racist than mine, but there are similarities. He explains how the romanticization of Gen. Lee and the Confederacy developed and its role in the systemic racism still present in America today. Do I hate myself and my ancestors for all of this? No. Slavery and genocide happened in this country--those are facts. We should reflect on how to move forward. As a white person, I do feel some guilt and responsibility--but feelings won't kill me. Rather, those feelings inspire me to be a better person and to help contribute to building a more inclusive country.


Conservatives worried about CRT fear their children will be made to feel guilty or that this teaching will actually divide us. In other words, little Johnny is so delicate, so let's just not talk about that, ok? We've already been doing that for centuries. But this is the concern of white parents. Black and brown kids know about racism, they know division, they live it--who is concerned about their feelings? Does not talking about it make it better? No.


White American children have been taught a whitewashed version of history for centuries because white parents and leaders could not and cannot face the truth. This is what I was taught, and I suffered for it. But on my own, I am learning the truth. Yes, the truth is uncomfortable and hard, but it is real. We live in a world that can be difficult and hard. Shouldn't we want our children to grow up resilient and equipped with the skills to navigate the world as it is? Or do we want them frail and living in some fantasy world?


These efforts to "protect" children are counterproductive. By banning CRT, we are doing our children a disservice. Banning ideas and teachings never works. Not in education or in spirituality. As Seidule writes in Robert E. Lee and Me:

"Racism is the virus in the American dirt, infecting everyone and everything. To combat racism, we must do more than acknowledge the long history of white supremacy. Policies must change. Yet, an understanding of history remains the foundation. The only way to prevent a racist future is to first understand our racist past."
10 views0 comments