I’m Diving in… You? By Kevin Hofmann Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion I sat in on a Zoom call a few weeks ago about creating a deeper conversation around race and racism in the Church. I was excited because I have a lot of ideas as to how we can create a better sense of belonging in the Church. Early in the conversation, the leader was asked a very important question. “Since everyone comes to the conversation of race from a different vantage point and with varying degrees of experience, will this conversation include definitions and the acceptance of the existence of things like, white supremacy, institutional racism, and white privilege?” I liked the question because this is always a struggle when talking about race. I think it is important to at least begin on the same page. The response we received floored me. “I’ll be honest, I will not use any of those words as part of this conversation.” The way he said it, I heard the period at the end of the sentence. He left no room for negotiations. I understand why someone might say something like this. There are words and phrases that can derail a conversation that already feels like it comes pre-installed with snares and pitfalls. I think the thought was that we don’t need to make the conversation any more hazardous than it needs to be. I have been a part of many well-meaning conversations on race. The dance is the same for me each time. I come to the meeting anxious to see what their level of commitment is to dig in and do the work. I stand at the edge of the pool listening, wondering if the water is warm enough to get in. The method of entry has changed. I used to dive right into the deep end willing to bare my soul for the benefit of the group and ended up flailing alone in the deep end. I am more cautious nowadays. Yet, I expect more. When I am brave enough to speak up, I expect to be heard. I expect to be given the grace to share my experiences, however that may present itself. This can be shocking to some because rarely do I, or others like me, get the opportunity to express the frustration and pain that comes with racism. The purge is not always clean and orderly, but it is necessary and not personal. To be safe to share in this way is invaluable. To be able to speak about the crushing weight of white supremacy is invaluable. To hear other acknowledge it is invaluable. To simply be heard – really heard – is invaluable. To begin the conversation by saying that I can’t name the perpetrator who caused this pain means I won’t dip my smallest toe in that pool. We must talk about the bad, the uncomfortable, and the painful. We must give each other the space to talk about the tough things. If we don’t, I don’t see how the conversation can be productive for all involved. Being a true ally means you’re willing to sit in the muck with me at the bottom of the pool. You don’t get to dictate how long I stay there, how I process it, or when I am done. I don’t need you to fix me, save me, or speak for me. I simply need you to sit with me. When I’m done, and we ascend to the surface to re-oxygenate our lungs, the oxygen is treasured in a way it never was. The Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse campus, and everywhere we touch, will be a safe place for all and diving into the deep end will be worth it. Who’s with me?