The Salvation Army Ethics Centre in Winnipeg hosted a four-part webinar series titled “Moving Salvationists Beyond ‘I’m Not Racist’ ” from September to October. The sessions were hosted by Dr. Jim Read and Dr. Aimee Patterson of the Ethics Centre. Major Shari Russell, territorial Indigenous ministries consultant, and Captain Crystal Porter, divisional Indigenous ministries consultant and divisional youth secretary, Prairie Division, facilitated the conversations around topics such as white privilege, tokenism and anti-racism. 

“Anti-racism is a way of living that aims to end racism in all its forms: individual, institutional and systemic,” says Dr. Patterson. 

The first session, titled “ ‘I’m Not Racist’ and Other Damaging Defenses” had 188 Salvationists join in the conversation. The webinars started with a presentation, followed by a question period, and ended with a chance for participants to break out into conversation groups to discuss what they had learned and share new ideas. 

The webinar series was conceptualized in early 2020 when the news became flooded with stories about Black and Indigenous people all over Canada and the United States being discriminated against. 

“We knew that to nurture ethical awareness, the Ethics Centre would need to engage the voices and perspectives of the people on the receiving end of racism,” says Dr. Patterson. To broaden the scope of the webinars, several Salvationists of diverse ethnicities were invited to share their experiences. “We need to see racism through the eyes of the people who suffer,” says Major Russell. 

Participants expressed an interest in wanting to know what anti-racism looks like on a foundational level. They learned to favour the perspective of the offended person over their own good intentions, to listen and take to heart what the offended party has said before trying to mount an explanation. Questions were also raised about whether oppression can be found in the ways people serve and worship within The Salvation Army. 

“The Ethics Centre worked diligently to ensure that Salvationists were given a sacred space to learn about racism and to ensure that there was time and space for reflection,” says Captain Porter.

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