A short case for the spiritual work of white people in reparations
“Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is - the work of fallible humans. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt…What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injuries - more than a handout, a payoff, hush money or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations
“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.
No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
While white churches have great responsibility to enact reparations by transferring wealth that was earned for white communities at the expense of black, brown and Indigenous lives — we must not make such a financial transfer without spiritual rigor.
To do so would be merely another act of charity — one that at its worst maintains an ethic of superiority as the white church yet again displays pity in an attempt to “lift up” those who have been held down deliberately by our own boots and the boots of our ancestors.
Even when white people and institutions are able to shed a posture of superiority — we may still act out of shame or guilt — and this too will be detrimental to the long work of collective liberation. An offering made out of guilt with no attempt to be a part of an ongoing commitment to change the very culture and shape of our nation with our own lives and breathes and bodies, is not a form of reparations that bring spiritual renewal. It is like pouring new wine into an old wineskin, a careless offering placed into a vessel not strong enough to hold the vision of this new Beloved Community. Such a negligent repair can only result in further rupture.
We must commit our hearts and our very bodies to the work of anti-racism, just as we commit our dollars. The incarnate God whom we call the Living Christ would ask nothing less of disciples on The Way.
This means white people need some training and to get into some practice together, as they also make financial commitments toward reparations. There are many resources and models for this work, I have listed a few below. However, the Justice League and its partners tend this work, we must tend the spiritual transformation as we make tangible concrete restitutions for generations of harm. How might congregations be invited into deep spiritual work and anti-racism practice alongside their financial contribution?
By: Reverend Lucy Waechter Webb (She/Her)
Lucy is a politicized faith leader & organizer, a healer, writer and ritualist working at the intersections of spirit, body and anti-oppression to support the emergence of our collective liberation. She believes the work of engaging our spiritual life is not so very different from engaging in our shared public (political) life.
After ten years as a pastor, her ministry is now focused on engaging other racialized-white people in anti-racism practice, as she is always deepening her own. Alongside her role at Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Lucy is currently engaged in rural organizing on Anishinaabe land (otherwise known as Northern Michigan), and is part of a team of anti-racism facilitators with Title Track. Her children are some of her best teachers, as are the trees and garden.