SUNNYVALE, California -- “I’m Morgan and I’m a racist.”
“I’m Bonnie and I’m a racist.”
“I’m Darryl and I’m a racist.”
Something that is usually unspeakable is a conversation starter at a meeting of Racists Anonymous.
Participants in the multiracial group try to become more aware of their own biases.
“That means if an Arabic person gets on a plane and I automatically think ‘terrorist’,” one member gave as an example.
Their goal is to abolish racism from their communities by first eliminating it in themselves.
“Often times we don’t even realize we’re being racist,” said Pastor Ron Buford, who started the weekly meetings last November at his Congregational Church in Sunnyvale, Calif.
He began holding the sessions after watching town after town get eaten up by hate and violence, so often born out of prejudice.
And the movement is growing. In less than a year, more than 50 churches in 22 different states have started Racist Anonymous meetings using Buford’s model.
“Black Lives Matter has made a wonderful impact in so many ways, but this is a different approach,” Buford said.
His program is focused on the individual. “Instead of talking about other people’s racism to say ‘it’s me,’” he said.
The revelations come in the smallest instances.
“There are a number of black people, and some of them have these weird names,” said Bonnie. “And somehow I just can’t remember those weird names and I feel very bad about it.”
“You might want to use unique or different, because I don’t think the mother would like you to say ‘Your child has a weird name, where’d you get Shaniqua from?’” responded Josie to laughs.
Morgan has been a participant since the beginning.
“I hadn’t considered myself a racist coming here,” he said. “Once we got into these discussions, it started me thinking … maybe there is a little bit of racism in everybody. And that I was one of them.”
“The reality is that the white experience in America, the black or brown experience in America, are so radically different that there is no way that the person who is white could even understand what’s happening to the black person, except it’s starting to happen. So I think people are coming to a place of discovery,” Buford said.
In a nation searching for answers, it is a small step. But it’s a step in the right direction.