Sunday, March 21, 2010

Unmasking Whiteness - A Summer Institute by AWARE-LA

I'd appreciate your help getting the word out about this event.

AWARE-LA is offering its workshop series on building white anti-racist practice and community in an intensive, 4-day institute
for white people.

The institute invites white people to deepen their self-awareness and build community with other white people taking
up work for racial justice. Through personal reflection, small and large group dialogue, and experiential activities, this
institute offers an opportunity for white people to explore the meanings of whiteness, white privilege and multiple
identities, how to resolve guilt and shame, systemic white supremacy, and building an anti-racist identity and practice.

WHEN: July 22-25, 2010
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
COST: $200 if registered before April 30th, $225 after April 30

What does this institute involve?

This four-day experiential workshop series invites participants to explore seven distinct topic areas:

The Meanings of Whiteness - Many people struggle to grasp what it means to be white in today’s society. How do
we create a positive, anti-racist white identity? An important issue is figuring out how we relate to dominant white culture while simultaneously supporting the movement toward a culture dedicated to social justice.

Historical Assimilation into Whiteness - Becoming “white” didn’t happen the same way for all European groups. How did the experiences differ? What impact does this have on different groups? Understanding how our assimilation history affects how we view race can help us when in conversations in diverse groups.

The White Supremacist System - Racism is not just about individuals’ ideas and actions. White supremacy is a systematic way of organizing the world that privileges one group at the expense of others. How do we participate in the maintenance of this system unknowingly? What can we do about it once we become aware?

White Privilege - U.S. society does not usually ask white people to explore how race affects our lives. Without honestly grappling with this question we often fail to recognize the various ways we receive social and economic benefits based on being seen as part of the white group.

The Many Aspects of Ourselves - We are more than just our race, our class, our gender, our sexual orientation, etc. We are an interrelated mix of our multiple social identities and each has an impact on how we experience the world. An essential step, however, is attending to both the areas where we may feel oppressed and also staying responsible for areas where we experience privilege.

Guilt and Shame - Two common emotions that arise when we learn about our history of racism and privilege are guilt and shame. These emotions often lead to paralysis and an inability to effectively participate in movements for change. Working through negative emotions is essential to building a solid anti-racist practice.

Building an Anti-Racist Practice - A key to creating a viable and sustainable anti-racist practice is forming a community that is similarly striving. Within a community we can develop and practice skills, hone our analysis, be challenged, and find support. This institute invites the creation of this type of community.

Who should come to this institute? All self-identifying white people interested in contributing positively to race relations in the U.S. - This experience is essential for educators, students, school administrators, social workers, community organizers, social justice activists, and all those invested in building equitable multiracial communities.

How will participants benefit? Increased knowledge and skills to: recognize racism in interpersonal interactions and institutions, engage in constructive dialogue about race, build an anti-racist community, and build confidence to disrupt racism in action.

Email if you'd like to register.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Overt Racism on UCSD's Campus - Fallout from a Culture of Colorblindness

In case you haven't heard, the University of California at San Diego has been the location of some extremely overt racially motivated and hateful events in the last couple of weeks. Although many may say that "it all started when...", that would be in error. A hostile environment has existed for far too long (and this is also likely true in many other places), but the overt and "in-your-face" nature of this has garnered national attention recently.

In "honor" (yeah, right) of Black History Month, a group of students at UCSD hosted a party called the "Compton Cookout". It pretty much denigrated African-American students in a host of horrible ways. In response to protests about the party, a noose was then found hanging in the campus library. The unidentified student who admitted to placing it there apparently said that is wasn't racially motivated (yeah, ok, really?) and then just a few days later a "KKK style hood" was placed on the head of a statue standing outside the library (not racially motivated either, right?)

From my vantage point, this is what happens when colorblindness rules our culture. We act as though racism goes away if we simply don't talk about it. It gives us (white people especially) free reign to claim that nothing we do is about race and that it's all in the past. And, the saddest part about it is that a bunch of people actually believe that b.s. We stay ignorant of our country's history of we then can claim that our actions have no link to it. Then we blame the very people who have been injured by it for years and act like they are the ones creating the issue.

It's like a wound being taped over so tight that no air or light can help it heal. Our racism has been festering underneath the cover of colorblindness (sometimes unconsciously) for years and it should be no surprise that it erupts full force once the surface is scratched.

It's the reason the witnessing whiteness idea is so important (my bias, of course) because until we can actually recognize the deep history underlying our ideas and actions, we will continue to create and support the development of environments hostile to people of color and underrepresented groups.

Creating a teach-in to talk about "tolerance", which is part of how UCSD responded, is pretty much in line with a colorblind approach. Without naming power and privilege, there is really nothing productive being accomplished.

If you'd like more info about this event, Democracy Now has a clip discussing the recent issues on the UCSD campus. "Following String of Racist Incidents, UC San Diego Students Occupy Chancellor's Office."

And yet, there are moments where I find hope. Just this last week I had the privilege of sitting at a dinner table with a phenomenal young white woman in Tulsa, OK who had just come home for spring break from a university in the midwest. She spoke of a recent outbreak of racism on her campus wherein a bunch of cotton was spread out on the lawn in front of the African American cultural center (if I remember correctly) and she had gone to her campus Town Hall to hear from their Chancellor. The good part is not how this Chancellor handled the situation. In fact, it is just as unhelpful as how UCSD is responding. It's what this young white woman said to her Chancellor that I find encouraging.

As the Chancellor essentially ignored questions from students asking what the administration was going to do in response --- this young woman, a freshman, took the microphone a second time, after her first effort was dismissed, and told her Chancellor in front of all that far more disturbing to her than the cotton balls is the way the administration was handling everything.

It's not just her courage that touches me. In fact, at this point, perhaps that's a minor point. Being a person of color on these campuses apparently takes far more courage. But, it's her ability to perceive that injustice is truly being done that, sadly, appears rare. I applaud her and those around her (big shout out to the YWCA-Tulsa) for helping to create the awarenes that allowed her to stand up and be a witness for racial justice.

There are simply not enough white people standing up against these overt displays of racism and working to root out the underlying causes...yet! For those of us working toward that, let's keep passing on these messages to build community and get the word out re: how much work we really need to do.