I was happy to lead a conversation on the book Waking up White by author Debby Irving with a group of interested women and men. The book discussion was an activity initiated by the Sisters of the Divine Savior to celebrate 2019 National Catholic Sisters Week. Our Sisters chose the book because we understand the need to be sensitive to other cultures.
In Milwaukee we have a variety of people and a majority are African American in the central city. In recent years the demographics of the neighborhoods where our Sisters live are “mixed neighborhoods.” It is important to us that we cultivate sensitivity as we hear the stories of persons of other cultures. We have always worked among diverse people in our ministries, but now we live in neighborhoods with them. Now we share our lives besides work.
We chose to read a book that increases personal sensitivity in several ways: that we benefit from systems that assist the dominant race; we saw why it is true that we benefit and some examples in employment, social organizations and education. The title of the book purposely uses the words “Waking Up” because it increases our awareness and our consciousness, and offers the opportunity to have a conversation with others. As Sisters and friends, we know that the divide among different ethnic groups needs to be bridged with understanding and compassion. Our United States seems to rely on a wall not a bridge to separate those who are “different” and “other.”
The book Waking up White becomes a bridge to hear the stories of others. Attentive listening allows our hearts to cross to the other side where we can sit with those different from us. Then we receive their gifts and happily look forward to another bridge-time. Our growing ability to listen becomes our “story” now and in the future as Sisters.