One way to heal the racial divide is to observe under what conditions racial harmony exists or flourishes. I notice most progress with racism occurs in situations and organizations where people have to work together for their common survival, their common good. Thus, during natural disasters and collective life-threatening crises, people seem to be able to put racial issues aside to help and care for one another.
I also notice a dampening of racial agitation in some spiritual domains. I do not necessarily mean churches or church groups, but more so in those places and spaces where the emphasis is on spirit, the primary focus is on awakening and feeding the spirit. There is a qualitatively different experience in interacting with people who have developed strong spiritual identities and who are more identified with them than their other social identities, like race, gender, or occupational status, for example, where the focus is on God, prayer, stillness, and silence.
Retreat centers are ideal because they are prayer-filled spaces and the purpose for being there is to nurture one’s relationship with God. Typically hosted by nuns, monks, or people dedicated to God and prayer, my sense is that they see and embrace me as a fellow spirit or spiritual pilgrim seeking God as well. Typically a deep peace prevails. However, this is not to say that on occasion, I encounter pilgrims who are in the early stages of cultivating their spiritual identities and thus respond to me based on their stereotypes of Black women instead of as a fellow spiritual pilgrim. Yet because I am there to nurture my spirit, it is easier for me to smile, bless them, and return to my silent retreat.
Likewise in contemplative/listening prayer/meditation groups and in spiritual direction, racial differences aren’t ignored, but they typically do not control or dominate the conversations. My integrated spiritual director peer group serves as a prime example. We operate and refer to each other as Spirit Sisters and meet regularly in a supportive environment that allows for self-disclosure. Frequently, these groups are interfaith or interdenominational and members are intentional in gathering together to support each other’s spiritual lives. And we learn about the commonalities we share with people who are members of different racial ethnic groups. Our egos (constructed selves) compete for wealth, status, and power, but spirits collaborate to awaken each other to our spiritual self. Thus, racism appears to evaporate anywhere the ego does not prevail.
From “Living Into God’s Dream: Dismantling Racism in America” by Catherine Meeks – Morehouse Publishing