Monday, November 9, 2015

Tabling at the Susquehanna Valley Progressives Networking Event

I was glad to have been invited to the Susquehanna Valley Progressives networking event this past Sunday. They had great speakers, and it was good to see some leaders from our area, and the projects they are dedicated to.

Donations for the night: $40
Thank you, donors!

I made some great contacts, and look forward to sharing my experience and work with new connections.

I put up a poster to get people's ideas and experiences around "The Conversation About White Racism" that mimicked this chart of my experiences with how the conversation goes. The idea is to get a grip on how to move people from explicit racism to equalty/freedom/justice, authentic relationships, civility, and a shared American identity.

I shared my work on a letter size paper next to the empty chart on the poster board. Contributions to the poster at the event provided -- privilege, fear, and us vs. them, in the negative area; and tolerance as one goal.

I do think these contributions are reflective of the way we have historically approached the issue of racism. Fear, and us vs. them, are base human reactions to things unfamiliar or threatening to us. Tolerance is a base line for civil actions with one another, and has been an American value -- though 9-11, the recession, and political messaging is encouraging more and more intolerance.

What is new, is the idea of privilege. The presence of this term on the board shows the changing terms around issues of racism, and the power new terms have to re-frame the conversation.

When I interviewed Diana Dunn, a year ago, one (of many) things she said to me stood out:

“If we can talk the same language, we get better outcomes, because we have more brain power to solve problems"

So here are some key definitions:
Racism- a power element or structure that favors one race over another. 
Structural Racism- community or societal structures that favor one race
White Privilege-  benefits for 'white' people in societies that favor white complexions
Discrimination- consideration of others based on group identity rather than individual merit
Bigotry- intolerance toward those who have different opinions than oneself 

As a mostly white community, we have not really had to reflect on how to manage diversity, or think about how we identify with racism, but I come to understand again, and again, is that people in our region care greatly about ensuring equity, justice, and healthy, inclusive communities- and are willing to learn, and do the work, to get there.

Join me at a Meet Up, which I have once a month, to add your voice and ideas to The Conversation About White Racism, and to continue to build understanding of how we can transition our conversations around racism from negative to positive.

The next Meet Up will be Tuesday, Dec 1st, at 2pm in Lewisburg, at the Cherry Alley Cafe.

We still have much to do to understand the work ahead of us, as individuals, and as a community, but I have no doubt, that with a little help from those dedicated to equity, and from those outside our community who have already dealt successfully with this issue, we will continue to build healthy, diverse communities in the Valley.

Let us not forget, as well, the wise words of Philip Zimbardo:

"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