Rebecca Gonzalez-Campoy, Beloved Community Communications Team
Interim Pastoral Care Minister Rev. Karen Gustafson professes to be a “keeper of the center,” someone who is not leading us in our antiracist multicultural work at Unity Church-Unitarian, rather she’s walking along side us, doing the work together.
“I am regularly examining my white privilege and my own whiteness,” says Gustafson. What this means can best be explained by a story. She recounts driving home from work to her home on the North Shore. She hit a deer which caused significant damage to her small car, but she was unhurt. Her friends exclaimed how terrible! But Gustafson uses this story to illustrate white privilege (emphasis is hers). “I was driving home from my job along the North Shore of Lake Superior in my car. I called AAA who said I would pay less for towing if I used my car insurance to cover towing fees since I was out of AAA service range. My husband came to get me in another car. I went home and slept while my car was collected and repaired.” She didn’t miss any work and if she had needed to do so, her employer would have allowed it.
“I was aware of how different the experience if any of these things had not been in place,” Gustafson says. She recounts other similar moments of awareness that reveal entitlement and ignorance. “I am mindful of asking myself, am I expressing white fragility?”
Her mindset is to notice her reactions, motivations, and reluctance in any given situation. “Being truly multicultural is demanding us (white people) to look deeply at what we take for granted. Consider how people discuss fairness. It’s from the perspective of what they don’t have. It’s seldom aimed at what they do have.”
Gustafson calls this awareness of historical white privilege. “If you want to really upset me, tell me ‘you deserve that!’ I can’t live long enough to make this true. So much of what people receive comes from circumstance beyond our control.”
She’s learned to examine her own racism from a place of curiosity, not judgment. She comes from a background which included little racial diversity but exposed her to a wide range of socio-economic differences. Part of this work requires accountability to others. She plans to participate in Unity’s Antiracism Literacy Partners to explore the works of those on the margins and then engage in group conversation about the spiritual impact and possible next right actions to take. As she gets settled into her home in the Twin Cities, where there is greater opportunity to interact with many cultures, she plans to look for ways to get out of her comfort zone, “to question my own assumptions.”
This making space for the stories of others is what pastoral care is all about. “I describe my theology as God of the Gaps,” says Gustafson. “Healing and grace happen in the space we create between us, when we make space to hold someone’s story. As (author) Parker Palmer puts it, to allow for the inner teacher to make itself known.”
Antiracism Literacy Partners will meet on Wednesday, November 16.
Beloved Community Resources
Next Right Actions
Unity Justice Database
Team Dynamics House of Intersectionality
Anti-Racism Resources in the Unity Libraries Collection
Creative Writers of Color in Unity Libraries
The History of Race Relations and Unity Church, 1850-2005
Beloved Community Staff Team
The Beloved Community Staff Team (BCST) strengthens and coordinates Unity’s antiracism and multicultural work, and provides opportunities for congregants and the church to grow into greater intercultural competency. We help the congregation ground itself in the understanding of antiracism and multiculturalism as a core part of faith formation. We support Unity’s efforts to expand our collective capacity to imagine and build the Beloved Community. Here, we share the stories of this journey — the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations — both at Unity and in the wider world.
The current members of the Beloved Community Staff Team include Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, Rev. KP Hong, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Rev. Karen Gustafson, Angela Wilcox, Pauline Eichten, and Erika Sanders.