Last weekend, my family did a photo session with a professional photographer. And of course, as soon as the photographer posted a “sneak peek” photo of me with the kids online, I changed my profile photo on Facebook and basked in the adulation of friends and family from Boston to Budapest. Never mind that we had pulled up for the 9 am session still stuffing Kane’s Donuts into our mouths and that the baby was cranky most of the time. Never mind that it had been a long, stressful work week, that we are still working through a backlog of crusty dishes piled up on our kitchen counter. On social media I was confident and capable, with my two adorable offspring by my side.
Much has been written about how social media platforms encourage our impulse to present a particular image of ourselves. But it isn’t a purely a phenomenon of social media. For more than a year now, Life Together has been engaged in the work of confronting and dismantling white supremacy culture-- the insidious ways that dominant values are used to exclude the voices of people on the margins-- in our community life. When I talk about that work to you, our broader community, I’m tempted to share only the successes. We are engaged in an exciting partnership with the Mystic Soul Project [link] to center the experiences of people of color in our training space. This fall we have launched monthly racial affinity groups, led by staff member Lindsey Hepler and alumna Hazel Johnson (‘11-’13). Yet if I really want to break down white supremacy culture’s perfectionism, then I also need to acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to do. Life Together needs to broaden and diversify our network, so that we do not place unjust emotional labor on a small group of alumni and supporters of color in doing this work. We have learned a lot about engaging in healthy conflict and leading with transparency, but there are still too many times we fall short around those growing edges.
Yet one gift of this community is its constant yearning toward greater authenticity, its resistance of our cultural perfectionism in favor of spaces where speaking the truth in love is possible. This month alumni Ricky Cintron (‘16-‘17) shares of finding healing in such an intentional community space, while fellow Jie Xi Wu issues a raw, prophetic challenge to those of us who are white to repent of our indifference to pain and abuse. I hope that in reading their reflections, you will find the space to claim your own struggles, your own need for growth, your own healing. I hope you will join me in naming them so that together, we can find liberation.