“I don’t really have a story,” says Scott Anderson, a Presbyterian pastor from Renton and an avid researcher. “It took me a while to figure out why don’t I have a story; and it’s because my story is the dominate story.”
Anderson has been exposed to most of the information in the RACE exhibit, which makes him less like other people going through it, because they may be seeing it for the first time. In particular, he is now doing research on white privilege in his role as a pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Renton.
His story is different, he says. He is unsure of his ancestry because his father was adopted, and he talks about white privilege as if it’s not a thing of the past, as so many like to believe.
“There is this constant drumbeat to claim that things are fair,” Anderson says. He explains that because he is white, and because he is male, he can walk into a room and be himself, while people of color cannot. People that recognize themselves as Caucasian have the privilege of being free of judgment, while someone who has a darker complexion doesn’t have that luxury. It may not be obvious to the average white person that this type of privilege exists, but Anderson is aware of it.
After attending seminary in Atlanta in the 1990s, Anderson was recommended to a Presbyterian church in that area. It was a half-white, half-black church, he says. It was integrated in a much different way from other churches around it.
“This congregation was really working intentionally to try to be with one another and share their lives together,” Anderson says. It’s a well known fact, he added, that church, in general, “is one of the most segregated places in the world on a Sunday morning. So, that was such an extraordinary church.” He paralleled the segregated tradition of churches throughout the country to this church where he started his work as a pastor, where there was no segregation. The contrast was obvious, and Anderson works hard to integrate his current church.
Anderson’s experience with the RACE exhibit was more of a review of his own research notes. He knew the information, but he says it was good to see it from a different perspective and to see others interacting with it.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail made a point that still resonates with Anderson, “He says, ‘It’s never the right time.'” It’s never the right time to support a controversial issue or to change the way we think about race, “but there’s a conversion that has to happen,” Anderson says. “It takes time and it’s a slow process, and it’s a change of mind and heart that happens over a long time.”
Anderson says he and his family moved to Renton because it has the sixth-highest diversity rate in Washington; Tukwila won the top spot.
“There’s something like 80 languages spoken around [Renton] schools,” he states. “Seeing my kids have the chance to go to school and make friendships with kids that are just very different from them; that look very different, that talk differently. That speaks to me of real promise.”
He knows there is hope for the future because of this growing diversity. He points out one man’s own description of himself in the exhibit. This man described himself as someone who looks like everyone in the year 2500. “We’re all going to look the same,” Anderson says.