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A SAFE PLACE TO LEARN AND SEE BY RICK ROSS

No one ever talked about racism in my house growing up. No one ever explained to me why John Jackson, the only black kid in my seventh grade class at St. John’s Catholic Church was not welcome at my house. But the one time he did come over to my house, my mother made it very clear that I had done something very wrong.

Playdate was over, and later that evening, my dad weighed in and said, “this is your mother’s house. And we abide by her rules.” He passed the buck to her. And yet he was completely in agreement and complicit with that thought. And when I tell this story, it makes me very sad. Having attended the WAG, which is the White Allies Group or the White Anti- racist Group for the past two and a half years on Zoom.

I had the chance to read to the group, my racial autobiography. Which was an introspection, an inward reflection on my earliest experiences with Black people in Denver, Colorado, where I grew up. It was seven pages long, but in the process I uncovered memories and events that I had forgotten or buried for 50 years plus. I found the racial autobiography to be a very powerful tool. And how did I never know about the Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre- slash- riots of 1921? Oklahoma is a state that borders Colorado. Tulsa and Denver are not that far apart. These riots destroyed 35 square blocks of the prosperous Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa. Americans bombed and murdered fellow Americans in the largest race riot in American history, and I fact-checked this on Wikipedia.

That’s one of my sources. Wikipedia has an amazing amount of information on this event that I never heard about, until I was in the WAG group. And the fact that the Ku Klux Klan was so rampant in Denver, Colorado in the 1920s, never a word was spoken to me about that. My grandparents were business people in Denver in that period.

They would’ve been in the middle of it. They would’ve at least known about it. It was neither condemned nor acknowledged. It was simply never spoken about. So WAG has been a place for me to wake up and the basis of Glide— unconditional love—made it a safe place to learn and to see.

The readings and the videos and the content were frequently uncomfortable, disturbing and jarring. And yet I persevered. It is an important part of my life. So thanks to Pam Noli and Linda Mantel and Winnie Fink and David Fredrickson and Thom Butler. You are a miraculous and brave bunch.

I am Rick Ross and I am Glide. Thank you.

Learn more about Glide Church’s White Antiracist Group

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