SOURCE OF THE CURRICULUM
Hearing the repeated refrain from BIPOC friends and colleagues “White people need to do their own work…” cofounders Lorraine Marino and Antje Mattheus set out to define what that work would be. But they did not do this alone. Through a network of supportive BIPOC colleagues, educators, and activists, they were able to interview people of color of varied ethnicities—Asian, Latinx, African American, Native American, as well as people identifying as biracial. They also included a range of socio-economics, professions, and political orientations. They asked participants what they wanted white people to learn. The resulting themes of these interviews are the basis of the current approach to the curriculum for all workshops. Though the workshops are facilitated by white people, this system of accountability to, and collaboration with, BIPOC remains foundational to this work. See info on “Accountability.”
The following are themes from those discussions with BIPOC:
Developing consciousness of being “white.” This includes:
- White power and privilege (mainstream dynamics and privilege); the
presumption of superiority in white culture and systems.
- How racism works at an individual, group, and systems level; how whites keep it going; understand group-level identities and behaviors
- To understand unconscious as well as conscious racism
- White superiority, especially in relation to Blacks; by seeing Blacks as less than human. all types of behavior can be rationalized
- Understand ranking behavior
- Noticing racially structured worlds, segregation – Where one lives, shops, worships, etc.
- How “individualism” affects white consciousness
- The process of positive white identity development – as a process (e.g., Helms’ model)
Projection of unaddressed inner conflicts and emotions. For example:
- Anger and fear from other issues directed to BIPOC, as it’s easier to put it on those more vulnerable.
- Issues un-worked in the white community (e.g., white women and white men)
Denial/defensiveness, fear, collusion.
- Collusion: staying silent when seeing racism; easier to go along and not rock the boat
- Denial of one’s racist programming, behavior; hard for whites to hear feedback
- The need for approval from other whites; fear of the consequences of living one’s principles; understand effect of marginalization of whites who work this issue openly
- Denial of differences between whites and people of color; quickness to join with people of color – has negating impact of “my experience is the same as yours”
- Tendency to quickly differentiate self from other “racist” (aka “bad whites”)
- “Enlightened (“woke” )whites” or diversity consultants often most defensive; often have biggest gap between image or stated values and behavior
- Be willing to acknowledge a person of color’s experience of racism; be willing to examine one’s behavior and impact. Unwillingness to do so creates dilemma for people of color: to stay silent or risk being “the oversensitive/angry black person”
Self-image versus actual behavior.
- Self-image one WANTS to have can blind whites from seeing their own racist behavior
- There is often a gap between a white person’s self-image and his/her actual behavior; this impacts his/her openness to feedback and his/her credibility
- Need for whites to develop a reliable feedback system – not just on how they see
- White people who think they are “woke” – often the more difficult; more “subtle” or implicit vs overt racism; more difficult to address; more tendency to deny racist behavior; gap between self-image and behavior
Self work: be willing to do the inner work needed to:
- Get past defensiveness and self image
- Heal the hurt in you so it doesn’t bump against the other (this is work she feels people of color need to do also); so we don’t nullify one another
- Be willing to own one’s racism
- Develop the will to get past fear – of the consequences of living your principles, of
confronting other whites, of not colluding, of the need for approval from other whites
- Skill of listening, acknowledging, talking, and changing; hearing feedback
- Willingness to stay in the dialog, work through conflict
- Getting past white guilt; don’t let it stop you from saving live
- To do ongoing work to keep the consciousness up; easy for any dominant group to lapse into unconsciousness; to continually work the cycle of denial, fear until behavior becomes an unconscious habit
Seeing through stereotypes.
- Role of the Media: bombardment of images that keep negative stereotypes alive (welfare, the violent black male vs current profile of shooters
- Blacks seen as incompetent; white’s tendency not to acknowledge person of color’s
contributions; or, to OVER compensate by complementing on the smallest of things
(patronizing); competence as a difficult dynamic for people of color because of always having it questioned. Less competent white person will get more access than a competent person of color
- Understand and see through these; hear and see with different consciousness
- Be willing to tolerate differences in speaking, dress, norms
Understanding the role of class and economics.
- Class-oppression dynamics are integrally linked; can’t deal with one and not the other
- Perception exists that there is only one class of people of color
- History of slavery and economics linked – capitalism and slavery entwined.
- The systemic causes of wealth inequities
Moving from awareness to action.
- Talk, awareness, and intent are not enough; no real help; need to take action
- Anyone who is really serious needs to make a commitment to action; every action goes some place
- Whether someone’s behaviors/actions are aligned is what gives credibility or determines authenticity
- Actions do not need to be all grand movements; small actions go a long way
- Need for whites to work issues within their community, such as white women and white men working their gender issues; otherwise these dynamics get played out with people of color
- Whites may not grasp all the complexities of race; but don’t let this stop you from acting and taking responsibility for what has happened and still is happening
Study history as the context for current issues. Without an understanding of the long history of race in this country and the embedding of whiteness and white law and superiority, people can’t accurately understand the current symptoms of systemic racism.
Other themes noted:
- The intersection of gender and race and other identities
- The need to hear BIIPOC stories: cross cultural sharing and relationship building
- Role of Christianity in Racism
- The interplay of various ethnicities – inter-group dynamics. Intersectionality
The workshops cover three main skill areas: Recognition skills – to more clearly see and name racism and racial dynamics in its many forms. Self-awareness – to understand one’s unconscious racial programming and work with it; to face and work through inner emotional barriers that prevent action; and to develop greater courage and resilience versus fragility. Intervention skills – how to confront racism effectively at the individual, group, and systemic levels
The Work is Both Inner and Outer Focused. To become effective anti-racists, Antje and Lorraine felt the curriculum must address inner work. This is also to address BIPOC experiences of many progressive white people acting from unconscious forms of racism or a faulty self-image, which were often denied. In addition, Lorraine and Antje’s shared a common experience about the importance of making the unconscious more conscious for themselves around the issue of race.
This meant that the work had to include helping people explore their inner world as well as the outer dynamics of race and racism. So it was important to help people explore what they carry inside— to face embedded racial programming and beliefs—and to be able to deal with the emotional dimensions of racism. It wouldn’t be enough to leave racism as an abstraction or as something that “other people” engage in. We often say one has to be both an “inner and outer warrior” fueled by compassion, honesty, not self-righteousness.
The overall approach is based on nonviolent principles, including creating non-judgmental, challenging, high-trust environments where people can deeply explore their beliefs and actions and challenge themselves and one another. Learning to be effective allies and continuing networks of support is also essential to sustaining the work.
The work is now carried on and continually evolves and updates through the skilled facilitators who have furthered the work.
In 2022, the next level of the program was piloted for those who had taken the first level workshop and wanted to deepen their work. Confronting White Supremacy is the next-level program, and includes a workshop intensive, followed by a series of follow-up days. This cohort-based program is also a way to help a group build as a cohort who can continue to be a support to each other in a more ongoing way.