Jeffrey Sharp responds to a Salisbury faith community creating opportunities for serious and important dialogues. We hope others will share their experiences about important events within our community. 

I’m writing in response to the My Turn published Sunday titled “Is Race an Illusion or a Reality?” I attended all three dialogue sessions hosted by First Presbyterian’s Race Task Force.

The series addressed the history of racism in America, its impact and the false justifications once – and still being – used to prop up racism in America. Video presentations were followed by small mixed-race groups to openly share our lived experiences of race and racism. We were challenged to engage in authentic conversations intended to take us outside our comfort zones.

White people talked about their difficult personal experiences in acknowledging and becoming sensitive to the impact of race and racism. We talked about the ways in which racist practices are often cloaked by “reasonable” assumptions. Black people talked about the daily difficulty of living in an unjust society, often burdened by negative stereotypes and dangerously disadvantaged because of their skin color. The goal of these dialogues was for each participant to reach an uncomfortable moment, for it is in exceeding our comfort levels that we grow.

The value of this dialogue series was discovering in community the impact of racism, which upholds the color lines that continue to create two Americas. In his book “The Color of Compromise,” theologian Jemar Tisby traces how religious organizations throughout history have and continue to provide justification for oppression and injustice. First Presbyterian Church is moving against the tide. The Race Task Force is to be commended. I hope they continue their good work.

Jeffrey Sharp