COLIN ATAGI THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
March 20, 2023
This image shows Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for racial Healing. She was the guest speaker Monday during a presentation by the Sonoma County Chapter of the National Organization for Women and Blacks United of Sonoma County. (submitted photo)
Understanding negative self behavior can allow internal healing and reduce racism, a renowned author said Monday during a presentation by two Sonoma County groups.
The message was delivered by Catherine Meeks, executive director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, who explained why it’s important to understand internal components and how they shape behavior toward others.
She spoke Monday night during a Zoom presentation organized by the Sonoma County chapter of the National Organization for Women and Blacks United of Sonoma County.
Racist people, Meeks said, hurt themselves by grasping onto the notion that some people are more valuable than others. And blaming others, she added, reduces responsibility and opportunities to improve themselves.
“If we don’t pay attention and name those energies that are running around inside of us, operating sometimes in whatever ways they choose to, they will take over and we will find ourselves being jerked around,” Meeks said.
For 90 minutes, she spoke to nearly 100 people and her words elicited a positive reaction from those in attendance.
In a series of follow-up questions, viewer Dianna Grayer asked for Meeks’ opinion on the word “minority,” which always bothered her.
“Every time I hear it, I cringe,” Grayer said. “It feels like a negative. It feels like you’re down below and white people are up above.”
Meeks said context matters.
“The word in and of itself isn’t a negative; it depends on how you’re using it and if you’re using it in a way to put everyone in the same bucket. That would be a problem,” she said.
Meeks encouraged attendees to be pilgrims instead of allies to those struggling.
Allies, she said, may show up when its convenient for them, but pilgrims put more effort into understanding someone’s struggle and committing to long-term support.
It’s not always necessary to have the answers, Meeks said. She added that sometimes it’s good to just talk and learn how to help.
“Hopefully people would honor that someone would have the courage to say ‘I want to ask you how I can be with you,” she said.
Elaine Holtz, a past Sonoma County NOW president and host of the podcast and radio show “Women’s Spaces,” commended Meeks following the presentation.
“This is such an important conversation. We have to come together as a human race,” Holtz said.
You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @colin_atagi