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Think. Discuss. Act. Racism

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Calvin College Race Document Discussion


(Download Racism Discussion as a PDF)

Summary Statement

To discuss the document, “From Every Nation,” (CalvinCollege’s revised comprehensive plan for racial justice, reconciliation, and cross-cultural engagement) as a tool to learn from and be challenged by in our own churches, youth groups, schools and/or organizations.

Leader Preparation

  • Contact CalvinCollege’s Dean for Multicultural Affairs and request the needed number of copies of “From Every Nation” for the group reading and discussion. (The leader should ask about the cost per booklet and cost of shipping, or make a donation.) 
  • Have the mature high school, or college, students read From Every nation, pages 5-31.
  • Pre-read From Every Nation to get comfortable with the history of the college and the issues at hand to be better equipped at drawing parallels between Calvin and the institution or group in which the leader and students are associated.
  • Make copies of selected passages that interest you from: A Many Colored Kingdom Chapter 6, specifically pgs 121-129, 134 and Divided by Faith Chapter 6 pgs. 115-135.
  • Investigate and research the history of your church, youth group or institution and try to find out how its past has been influenced by race and how that impacts the current state of the group or organization.
  • Set up necessary equipment and have CD and DVD cued, ready to play.

Group Building

  • Play Ben Harper’s song Oppression as a conversation starter and discuss the various forms of oppression in the United States, and in the local context where this conversation is taking place. Use this conversation to prime the pump on issues dealing with injustice, especially racial injustice.

Group Presentation

  • Play the scene in Malcolm X (2:06:40) where the white college girl converses with Malcolm about how she can get involved in the effort to bring freedom to African-Americans.
  • If the students are unfamiliar with Malcolm X provide a brief explanation of his role in American race relations and the legacy that he has left. (You could also watch the entire movie as a group prior to this discussion and use the associated discussion questions on the CYS website.)
  • Use this scene to alert the group to the difficulty of racism and the variety of approaches that can be used to address racism but how, ultimately, inaction is not an option and therefore Malcolm X’s emphatic “nothing” response to the white girl is not appropriate.

 Group Discussion

  • Ask for initial opinions/comments on the student’s reading of From Every Nation.
  • What are the two aspects of “shalom” that must go hand in hand? (pg. 6)
  • How would one become a “multicultural citizen” in the context of our community? In the greater world? (pg. 7)
  • Why does anti-racism have to be paired with accountability? (pg 8, 27-29)
  • Why does the third step have to be reconciliation and restoration? (pg. 8, 29-31) What scriptures would support these ideas? (pg. 9 and 11, for two examples)
  • Why is the biblical vision “of Pentecost rather than the vision of Babel?” (pg. 9)
  • How does the acceptance of the fact that we are created in God’s image impact our relationship with others and with the creation? (pg. 10)

Hand out the reading from A Many Colored Kingdom and read pre-selected passages from chapter 6, “Becoming a Culturally Sensitive Minister.”

  • What Biblical basis does Tom Thompson and Gary Parrett base their ideas off of for the concept of shedding parts of your cultural identity for the sake of serving others?
  • Why are we not supposed to “compromise” or “abandon” our own character and identity nor are we to create a “common-denominator” identity? (pg. 13)
  • How would color blindness play into this “common-denominator” identity?

Continue with the discussion on From Every Nation

  • How has history played into Calvin’s struggle for Multiculturalism? (pg. 15-17)
  • How did the attitude of “onze school for onze kindren” (Dutch for “our school for our children”) unintentionally lead to white privilege? (pg. 15-16)
  • What aspects of history have played an integral part in impacting your organization or church? Is there “white privilege?”
  • According to the authors, how has this legacy of white privilege impacted the structure and ethos of CalvinCollege? Of your institution or church?

Hand out the reading from Divided by Faith and read pre-selected passages from Chapter 6, “Let’s Be Friends.”

  • How is racism lived out individually? How is racism lived out corporately, or institutionally? (pg. 18)
  • How does the biblical image of neighbor, for example, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan differ from the idea of “tolerated guests?” (19)
  • How does the decision of which church to attend impact race relations? (20)
  • How does Hal’s solutions (DBF, 116) to racism fall short?
  • Despite good intentions, how can an organization’s makeup of leadership, worship services, and institutional structures “convey the impression that white people have more natural ability for these roles?” (pg. 21)
  • What is the “miracle motif” according to the authors of Divided by Faith and how is this approach “doomed to failure?” (DBF, 130-133)


  • Stress the interweaving of the three key themes: being a multicultural citizen, working to identify racism while providing accountability in changing structures that will end institutional racism, and the importance of working for reconciliation and restoration at the same time.
  • Highlight the importance of recognizing both individual and institutional racism.
  • Focus on letting go of the aspects of our cultural identity that prevent us from fully entering into other cultural contexts.
  • Discuss the need to set goals and action plans that will deal with individual and institutional racism. (See pages 39-52 for CalvinCollege’s goals.) 

Evaluation and Follow-Up


  1. Racism breaks shalom on an individual basis, but it also destroys and has long term effects at the institutional level.
  2. “Our silence gives consent” and therefore we must “turn our recognition of wrong into a lifestyle of reconciliation,” Chris Rice from More Than Equals, pg. 116-117.
  3. “A commitment to racial justice and reconciliation cannot be pursued in isolation from other justice issues” (pg. 5, From Every Nation).
  4. To be reconciled to God necessitatesthat we are also reconciled to our brother and sister.

 Seth McCormick
© 2018 CYS

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