Annual Meeting 2015: Dismantling Racism and Creating Diversity

– At last year’s Annual Meeting the MN Conference committed itself to the Kingdom building work of dismantling racism and creating diversity. As we prepare for the June 12-14, 2015 Annual Meeting, Rev. Dick Fylling, member of the Annual Meeting Planning Work Group, reflects on the ways in which racism can become internalized within those who are its most effected victims and the tragic loss that often accompanies this spiritual illness of racism.

Wounded Knee Museum in Pine Ridge ReservationA Recipe for Tragedy
In recent months, we have often seen or heard the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER!”

While I wholly agree with that statement, I believe that black lives, white lives and all lives matter to God who loves, cares deeply and wants the best for all God’s children.

I was reminded of that fact in a poignant and painful article I read this past week.

It was written by a young high school English teacher who resides in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota. His name is Dominique Alan Fenton. The article was titled “Racism at Core of Native Teen Suicides in Pine Ridge”.

Mr. Fenton reports that, as of April 2, 2015, at least 11 children between the ages of 11 and 17 have committed suicide since December and that between December 1 and March 23, 241 patients (under the age of 19) had been treated at the Pine Ridge Hospital after having planned or attempted suicide.  This means that, at this rate, 37 youngsters on this reservation of less than 5,400 inhabitants will be lost by the end of 2015.

Mr. Fenton states that the root causes for this tragedy, which has continue to grow the past seven years, are extreme poverty (Oglala Lakota County is one of if not the most poverty-stricken county in the United States), historic trauma (growing up amidst constant denigration from outsiders) and racial discrimination.

Spending one’s childhood hearing that you are worthless and that you have no future or being called “a dirty savage” or “prairie n-word” or being told to “go back to the reservation!” since you were an infant gives one a sense of despair at an early age and a feeling that one has no future. At Pine Ridge, extreme poverty, constant trauma and racial discrimination are a believing-ground for hopelessness and a recipe for tragedy.

Something to think about as we prepare for “Going Deeper: Trusting in Sacred Conversation” at our June 12-14, 2015 Annual Meeting.

– Rev. Dick Fylling, Annual Meeting Planning Work Group