Students should admit own racism, minister says

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Linda Baumheckel, senior pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, discusses racism and the book “Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America” by Thandeka during the Hot Potato lecture Tuesday.  Photo by Taylor Tribbey

Linda Baumheckel, senior pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, discusses racism and the book “Learning to be White: Money, Race and God in America” by Thandeka during the Hot Potato lecture Tuesday. Photo by Taylor Tribbey

Hot Potato lecture discusses race and religion in church.

By Matthew Reyna

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

The church can help improve race relations “by not being the most segregated hour in America on Sunday mornings,” a minister said at Tuesday’s Hot Potato lecture.

Though disguised throughout society, racism exists, the Rev. Linda Baumheckel of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi said Tuesday.

Her presentation, “Racism Takes Many Shapes,” was a part of the United Methodist Campus Ministry’s Hot Potato series, a forum that combines healthy debate on social issues and free hot potatoes for participants.

A common theme echoed by participants was the idea of forthright discussion between all races and religions.

Before Baumheckel’s lecture, Alex Ruiz, president of the United Methodist Student Organization, said, “It is time for the church to start moving on new issues in a progressive fashion. We cannot continue to uphold ancient ideology.”

The Rev. Johnny Silva, director, introduced Baumheckel to the crowd of about 25.

Baumheckel referred to disguised racism as “soft racism,” which drew a murmur of agreement throughout the crowd.

She said when she is around her mostly black congregation, people will subconsciously ignore “my brothers and sisters of color,” and direct questions straight to her.

Baumheckel talked about “black invisibility,” motivating many African-American and Hispanic students to share their own experiences with invisibility.

Baumheckel made the crowd examine its own racial biases when she proposed a “fear factor.”

She asked the audience if they reacted differently when two white men walk by as opposed to when two black men walk by.

A sea of nodding heads testified to the guilt many felt in this situation.

When Baumheckel finished, more than half of the students raised a hand to ask a question, including, “Is America’s diversity at the root of its racism?”

At one point, the question-and-answer session morphed into a debate over the term “reverse racism.”

The pastor smiled, listening to two students debate whether the term was inherently racist.

An African-American student asked if he should be scared as a young black male in America.

Baumheckel said, “I can’t honestly tell you that you shouldn’t be scared.”

After the event, Baumheckel said the single most important takeaway of her speech was for students “to recognize how they deny racism in their own actions, thoughts and deeds.”

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