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'Dismantling Racism' training seeks to strengthen community relationships in North Central

Travels and extended stays in Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and other countries inspired the Rev. Ann Hinz’s commitment to interracial and intercultural connection, which she has put into practice through her involvement with the North Central Washington Coalition to Dismantle Racism.

“My travels led to my interest in other cultures and to my being intrigued by what divides and unites us as people,” she said.  “I became interested in racism and how it affects our relationships with people, in terms of both power dynamics and underlying prejudices that harm both people of color and white people.”

Soon after moving to Quincy, Wash., as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, serving through this January, Ann connected with the grassroots organization, which formed in 2000 and became a nonprofit two years ago.

Ann’s global and cultural background spurred her commitment.  After high school in Gig Harbor, she attended Washington State University for three years.  Then she traveled with a friend through England and Scotland.  She met up with her college sweetheart, Marvin Hinz, in Germany.  They married in Gibralter, and then traveled by low-budget bus and train for nine months in Europe, North Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India and Sri Lanka. 

Often they stayed with families of students they had met at WSU, learning about the life and cultures.

Upon returning, Ann completed a bachelor’s degree in English and education at Washington State University in 1975.

Their daughter Sonja was born in 1973 and their son Shawn in 1975.

They lived the next three years in Germany while Marvin was in the military, and then two years in Australia, where Ann taught at an elementary school in which half the students were immigrants.

While working in a juvenile court education program and a residential youth drug and alcohol treatment center, she earned a master’s degree in education at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

She and Marvin began attending a Presbyterian church and, at 38, she stopped resisting a call she felt to go into ministry.  He worked in mediation, while she studied for a master of divinity degree at Vancouver School of Theology.  After graduating in 1992, she accepted a call to a church in Gold Beach, Ore., where she served seven years and started a doctor of ministry program with San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Her thesis took her to the next step.

In 1999, she accepted a call to Quincy, where she could explore her thesis about how preaching could help an Anglo congregation build bridges with neighbors in other cultures.

They lived in the church parsonage for a while, but now live in Leavenworth, where Marvin has a counseling practice.

Ann said she was also drawn into anti-racism education because of some of her experiences of not being treated well in her childhood.

“It gives me compassion for other people who are not treated well,” she said.  “Compassion is what Jesus’ ministry is about, and compassion sums up my call.”

It led her to examine her own complicity in institutional racism and to recognize her privilege.

Through the North Central Washington Coalition to Dismantle Racism, she has joined with other Anglos and Latinos to offer anti-racism training in Quincy, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Chelan and Cashmere—communities with growing Latino populations.

Ann said about 300 people of different races and cultures in local churches, schools, clinics, nonprofits, government offices and social services have completed the anti-racism training, using curricula from the Crossroads Institute in Chicago.

Churches involved include Faith Lutheran in Leavenworth, Holy Apostles Catholic, First United Methodist and Grace Lutheran in Wenatchee, and St. Paul Lutheran and First Presbyterian in Quincy.

“Through awareness, we hope people will do things to bring changes in churches, schools, services and businesses,” she said.

 “Our definition of racism is both individual and institutional.  We look at how racism impacts institutions, churches, schools, medical practices, anywhere that people of color are treated differently than white people,” she said.

The coalition defines racism as an imbalance of power in relationships and we define prejudice as attitudes Latinos or Anglos may have about each other as a result of the power inequity, she said. 

“Racism is about both prejudice and power.  We deal with hate and hate crimes, as well as expectations, assumptions and fears,” Ann continued.

“It’s hard for people to recognize how institutions treat people differently.  We encounter resistance and anger,” Ann said, adding that people don’t recognize the existence of white privilege and how people of color internalize the institutional racism and individual prejudice.  “The attitudes are bred into us.”

While the work to dismantle is painful, she also finds it exhilarating.

The one-day or weekend trainings in Spanish and English include time for people to socialize, to share who they are and to grow in trust through relationships.

The Coalition to Dismantle Racism sees they can reach their goal by educating institutions, organizing and training leadership teams, creating accountability for those teams, networking to foster support and using institutional change to create community change.

The Presbytery of Central Washington and the Synod of Alaska Northwest sponsored a three-day anti-racism training in Quincy in 2002. 

Quincy is now about 70 percent Latino and 30 percent Anglo, with a few Asian Americans, Native Americans and African Americans. 

“The Latinos are mostly Mexican, but also include people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. 

“Some, who have been in Quincy since the 1950s, are professionals.  Some, there for about 20 years, are settled in the community and work in the fruit and vegetable processing plants.  Others are migrant farm workers, moving back and forth between Mexico and Quincy,” Ann said.

Ann found that as the Latino population grows the Anglo population declines.  Some Anglos who came in the 1950s with irrigation are dying, retiring and moving, or leaving because of fear about gangs and crime, she said.

“Most Latinos go to the Catholic Church or to Pentecostal churches,” said Ann, whose church is declining with the population shift. 

Since the 1950s when it had about 220 members and 130 in Christian education, the congregation dropped to 90 in 2000 and now has about 71 members. They voted in December to move to half-time ministry, so Ann resigned in January. 

A few Latinos attend the Presbyterian church.  One Latina joined the church and now serves on the board. 

The church also has partnered with the Spanish Assembly of God Church for six summers to sponsor a bi-lingual, bi-cultural vacation Bible school for 50 to 100 children—90 percent Latino.  Youth come from a Presbyterian church in Grants Pass, Ore., or Redmond, Wash., to assist with the program.

“For Latinos to see a church as welcoming, it would have to offer bilingual services and include them in leadership positions,” she said.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, a 75-year-old Latino social justice and civil rights organization, began meeting at the Presbyterian church in July 2005.

“They see the church as a welcoming place to meet,” she said.

Ann, who has also had national Presbyterian training as an anti-racism trainer, is committed to working against racism because she knows what it does to people of all races.

“As a Christian white person with information, I can’t pretend racism is not there,” she said.

Preaching on the lectionary of suggested scriptures, Ann has raised questions about “God’s call to us in the midst of living in a growing Latino community, encouraging people to know that God is with us in the midst of change.

“I preach on the grief process many Anglos experience with the loss of people to death and moving,” she said.

For information, call 548-7398 or email mahinz@nwi.net.

 

By Mary Stamp, The Fig Tree - © March 2006