Friday, December 4, 2015

December Events & Experience taking Undoing Racism (TM) Training

December's Founder's Donation Event was in Selinsgrove.
We raised: $0
Number of participants: 0
Total average donation per person: 0

Meet up participants in Lewisburg- 1

Events in Lewisburg and Selinsgrove were not well attended.

One person came to the Meet-up at the Cherry Alley Cafe in Lewisburg.  I have spent many hours in Lewisburg with various organizations, all with interest in the training-- and a couple of people have actually taken the training. I was hoping to see some active involvement to continue 'The Conversation About White Racism' and compare that chart with the continuum provided by The People's Institute, which I distributed to many community activists/leaders in the Lewisburg area, who have expressed interest in supporting Undoing Racism (TM) in the Valley.

The one participant and I spent most of our time at the Cherry Alley Cafe talking about what Undoing Racism (TM) is and the dynamics of Internalized Oppression- which has two sub-categories, according to The People's Institute's training-- Internalized Superiority, and Internalized Inferiority. Ronald Chisolm, a founder of The Institute, explains this a bit in this video linked to the About page. I did not understand what he was talking about in the video, until I took the training.

Defining Racism:
The guest that attended the Meet-up was black, and we started by talking about our cultural definition of racism-- one group disliking another because of their skin color-- and, she added-- black people are racist too. "How do white people at these meetings define racism?" she aksed. The same way, I said-- hate against people with different skin color, and, someone invariably adds- black people are racist too.

"We need to get together and talk to see how similar we are," said the participant. This statement has come up very often in my conversations with people. Not that we need to get together and talk about racism- but just get together- around food is often a suggestion- just to get to experience each other's common humanity.

I have been cautioned by another, in a social media conversation, that no matter how close we get (black and white) there will always be a separation as long as some are afforded favoritism, and some are not afforded equality and justice.

Another definition of racism:
 One new thing that I picked up from the training was The People's Institute's 'working definition' of racism-- which is: Race Prejudice + POWER. That is positive or negative prejudice + the power to make an impact on another's life with that prejudice. I often use the definition-- "Power elements or structures that favor one race over another."

The oppression of racism is not exclusive to explicit hate, discrimination, or prejudice.

Why are people poor, and poor community power analysis: 
One of the most powerful parts of the Undoing Racism (TM) workshop was the exercise "why people are poor" and the power analysis of poor communities. The trainers asked people 'why are people poor?' and they made two lists-- one of biases (i.e. lazy), and one of structural barriers (i.e. no child care). Then the trainers asked participants to map a poor community, and the institutions that serve it. The take away was that many social service agencies (who have significant power to affect clients lives) may not serve the communities they are connected with, but simply operate in them.

Are people in poor communities getting the help they need, or are they being funneled from one program into the next as a function of social service bureaucracy? Are resources even going to the needy? Are institutional leaders making decisions influenced by racial bias? Are citizens victimized by invasive and punitive rules and regulations, or do they have institutional support? 

If services are not balanced with citizens actual needs, dis-empowerment and dependency may be the end result-- instead of empowerment, and positive life changes.

Where are our local institutions on the continuum?
We did look at the continuum from the People's Institute that maps institution's movement from racist to anti-racist and multi-cultural. The perspective from the participant was that our local institutions are geared toward white culture because our institutions are mostly white, and that the attitude of 'others' may be that there aren't that many of them, so why try to influence things? We both agreed that multi-cultural societies need multi-cultural leadership.

My perspective is that leadership does not need to be proportional- all members should have a path to a meaningful role in shaping community structure. Everyone has something to give, and we don't know what we are missing when we exclude people from leadership. From my perspective, white people often block 'others' out of equal participation and meaningful roles either by in-group favoritism, or simply by being resistant to someone new.

Unfortunately, in our country, we are in a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to pubic participation- barely anyone tries to have a voice in their communities (black, white, or otherwise), and when they do, they are often bullied 'back in their place' by those who dominate public positions- which discourages participation.

May the People, Can the People, Will the People Lead?
I see a correlation between this Catch-22, and The People's Institute's hypothesis of Internalized Superiority and Internalized Inferiority- and though it plays out racially, it also plays out in general, socially. Citizens who are not used to having the privilege of power- whether it be education, money, looks etc. feel dis-empowered and are easily blocked by those who are comfortable wielding power.

In the context of racism a dizzying, ridiculous effect takes place: neither white nor black folks get past in-group drama to focus on the actual problems of racism. Time is spent fighting about who is crowned the dominant leader, instead of how to cooperate to solve problems. I have definitely experienced this recently with activists who are excited about this training, but who have spent more effort to try and stop my work, than focus on how we can work together toward solutions. Drama cannot be the focus, or we will continue to get nowhere addressing the very real threats of racism in our communities.

We can solve this
Community leaders have an onus to provide accepting spaces for public voices; clear instructions on the channels citizens may use to play meaningful roles in community decision making; welcome all cultural persuasions; and listen with seriousness when grievances are raised. The public have an onus to be active citizens, and to hold leaders accountable for policies and decision making. I do believe that Undoing Racism (TM) training can be used as a tool toward these ends.

"Focusing on people as causes of evil then exonerates social structures and political decision making for contributing to underlying conditions that foster evil:
poverty, racism, sexism and elitism."-Philip Zimbardo