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Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin

Non-Oppressive Relationships:

What's Wrong With Our Pictures?  

I used to teach a class at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota, called Non-Oppressive Relationships.


The class looked at the systemic nature of things like racism and sexism -the ways in which various parts of the culture we leave together to become a systemic.


What's Wrong With This Picture? 


Every day I would bring into the class a picture or a story or a news article, share it with the class and ask them the question, “ What's wrong with this picture?”


Then I would call on one student to answer that question from a systemic vantage point.


One time I brought in a picture of a popular magazine that had a female form in a white dress and a banner over her chest that said Miss America. I asked the question, “What's wrong with this picture?” There were numerous responses. Including one about the sexism that pays little attention to a woman's head. Amen.


It took a long time before someone in this predominately white class, a Native American woman, said “The woman is white, the system says that Miss America is white.”


Are those of us who are in places of privilege - which allow us to ignore the wrong in our shared picture-  Are we prepared to live our lives looking for the racism and sexism that is always present?


Are we willing to ask more often than we do?What’s wrong with this picture?” and “How are the systems of oppression at work here?”


Regarding this story I would ask the question: "What's wrong with this picture?” What's wrong with the story? What's wrong with what he is saying and how he says it?


Do we have a way to answer that? Are we skilled at sharing that answer with those around us?



Rev Canon Peg Chemberlin is Executive Director at Minnesota Council of Churches and past president of the National Council of Churches in Washington, D.C. 


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