“I Don’t Want You To Help Me”

A Letter from the Executive Director

Last week, I was at a retreat with a diverse group of faith leaders. Many perspectives and missions were represented: climate change; economic justice; voting rights; the crisis facing our democracy; challenges of working with those who differ on tenets of faith. It surprised no one that the concern which received the most attention – that weaved through everything else – was race.

Of the many gripping testimonies and stories of struggle, one reflection took me to a deeper place. It was shared by an African American pastor who recently participated on a panel about racial justice. As the panel concluded, another panelist (a white women) said to her: “I want to be an ally in your work to overcome racism.” The pastor’s response was: “I don’t want you to help me overcome racism. I want you to work harder at overcoming racism.”

It was a poignant, raw, and moving moment. It was a reminder I needed. It was the kind of honesty we need from each other to truly make progress.

As you’ll see elsewhere in this How Can I Help? newsletter, CVN is heightening our commitment to racial diversity and justice. We hope plans for this year will inform action for the future. Before last week, I might have said we hope you’ll be an ally. But addressing racism is too hard for one staff, program, or initiative to lead. So instead of thinking we know what is needed most right now, the CVN staff and board are taking the first step of sharing and publicizing what we pray will shape us and our efforts. It comes from much discernment and desire. We invite you to join us in this commitment. May we step into that space well; in ways that help us connect with you and others in meaningful ways.

CVN’s goal is to foster understanding – at social and personal levels – that informs action. Initial goals are to share resources, offer self-reflection and cultural competency tools for members, use the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter to catalyze efforts, and focus on diversity in ways that reduce barriers to faith-based service. I’ll share more about those as able. We welcome any feedback or ideas you have.

A recent study about polarization in America revealed that, despite major trends toward tribalism and fear, 77% of Americans believe we can overcome our divisions. Perhaps being part of the 77% – especially with regard to race – is a place to start. I hope to see you there so we can discuss what it means to be the right kind of ally, with who, how, when…

Yonce Shelton
Executive Director

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