50 attended racial justice discussion at Albion

Posted 23 June 2021 at 9:00 am

Provided photo: Four of the panelists during a June 17 session on racial justice included, from left: Rev. James Renfrew, Kim Remley, Kae Wilbert and Bob Golden. Not pictured is another panelist, Sister Dolores Ann O’Dowd.

Press Release, by Bob Golden, member of Social Justice Committee

ALBION – Last week the Rev. James Renfrew of Clarendon, 20-year pastor of Byron First Presbyterian, led two discussions on the book, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

There were 16 at the noon session and 36 for the second discussion at 6:30 p.m. on June 17, in addition to the five panelists. The audience was filled with people who “cared” and had proven it through their civic and church activities.

Through a series of probing questions presented by Rev. Renfrew,  the panel and many in the audience expressed the shock that DiAngelo was right. We’d personally profited, whether we wanted or realized it, by white or male or other privilege that we didn’t necessarily merit and we’d simply taken for granted. Further, it was often at the expense of minorities, women, or people maybe not considered as attractive, but equally qualified.

Renfrew also asked, “How should we prioritize our approaches to racism – dig deep into the awful truth of past racism, or work together to build a better future for all?” All of the panelists and several audience members said both: we have to understand and acknowledge (and apologize for) our past and reach out to mend and rectify our continued injustices.

There were several significant members of the African-American community, including Deacon Billie Witherspoon, who gave incisive perspective.

The panel members for the June 17 discussions were Sister Dolores Ann O’Dowd, Kim Remley, Kae Wilbert and Bob Golden.

Co-sponsoring groups: Social Justice, People Embracing Diversity and Albion Betterment Committees, the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church and the Hoag Library.

Bob Golden, in framing the discussion, quoted from the great composer, Duke Ellington. Duke envisioned in 1943 “a future world …as a place…where there will be no war, no greed, no categorization, no non-believers, where love is unconditional and no pronoun is good enough for God.”

Many in the audience asked about future such programs. The Rev. Trellis Pore, diversity trainer for NYS Corrections; Rev. Aaron Kulczyk of Holy Family and Rev. Justin Steeg of Our Lady of Victory, past seminarian assigned to Holy Family; and Mike Magnuson of Hoag Library have agreed to consider leading discussions in the fall.

Among the books considered: Ijeama Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race,” Brian Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” Michele Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” Pope Francis’ “Fratelli Tutti,” Rev. Martin Luther King’s “Where Do We Go From Here, Community or Chaos,” and “The Overground Railroad.”