Welcome to the Blog: Let’s Get Started

Welcome to the REA Annual Meeting 2018 blog. As announced in St. Louis at REA Annual Meeting 2017, the theme for the REA2018 is “Beyond White Normativity: Creating Brave Spaces.” I want to encourage you to participate in this blog throughout the year as a direct way to exchange thoughts on white normativity and your own experiences in creating brave spaces in preparation for REA2018. Take this time to think about this theme and how it impacts the context of your work, research and life experiences. In this way, we can begin to see the numerous and diverse ways in which white normativity is interwoven into the heart of the global challenges we are witnessing. This includes not only the challenges of racism as seen throughout the United States, but also the xenophobia around the influx of migrants and refugees throughout Western and Eastern Europe, the rhetoric of fear used by nationalist candidates for political office in France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the limited access to power by the First Nations People in Canada and the debate on the redress of past wrongs committed against them, the treatment of the aboriginals in Australia,  and the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to highlight a few. Issues of sexism and discriminatory behaviors also fall under the umbrella of white normativity, as does the colonialist mindset of multinational companies working in what they might call the “third” world nations.

No one is really immune to the numerous hegemonic forces that we see operating at one time or another and in one place or another. Christianity has practiced hegemony at different times in its history as demonstrated by the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and the colonization of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The history of what historically was called Hispaniola has also been full of stories of intolerance and fear of the other, and in some ways continues today.

The greater problem is in the systematization of xenophobia, discrimination and hegemony leaving us with our current structures, institutions, policies and practices that seem to legitimize and thus maintain our inability to authentically see, value and love “the other” whoever that might be in our contexts. How do we resist the power and privilege that comes with hegemony and white normativity? More importantly, for us as religious educators, how can we change this within our classrooms and our churches? How do we create the environments in which our students genuinely learn how to relate authentically with each other? What does that mean for our syllabi? What type of research and scholarship is needed?

Unfortunately we have no models within the larger arena to guide us in moving beyond white normativity. However, many of us are actively and passionately addressing this challenge in our classrooms, Sunday Schools, diverse ministries and through our scholarship and research. This is a step in the right direction. But at the same time, I also sense that many of us feel that we have not made the degree of progress, as a discipline and field that we truly want to see and need to see in going beyond white normativity. So, this leads me to ask the questions: What would going beyond white normativity look like? What kind of reflection is needed from those of us who have benefited from white privilege and hegemony? Do we have the type of relationships that it takes to genuinely reflect with each other such that we can engage the conversation deeply? Do we know the next step that will support us as a guild in untangling the many threads that have formed white normativity, white privilege and a culture of whiteness?

So I invite you to contribute to this blog. Share your vision in the blog of what you think our classrooms, schools, churches and communities would look like if we could effectively go beyond white normativity. Share your pedagogical success stories or the beginning steps that you have taken in creating a brave space in your classroom. Let’s get started on this journey to go beyond white normativity and continue to seek new and effective ways to create brave spaces, personally and corporately as a community of religious educators, researchers and practitioners.

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