One reason we keep coming back to the conversation of our first film, Light in the Shadows, is because the issues still resonate. Conversations about race often break down between white people and people of color. Whether you saw the film in the early 2000s or have just been introduced to it, the message is clear: We’re doomed to repeat the cycles of oppression if we don’t heal.
Expanding Dualistic Framing
The world is not an either/or place, even though it’s our tendency as humans to respond to life dualistically. We make decisions in ways that are hierarchical and linear. It is critical that we think systemically and develop our analyses through the observation of the patterns and relationships that are always embedded in complex issues.
In cross-racial conversations, we need participants to do their own internal work—dealing with their individual understanding of how racist systems were created and operate while understanding their own emotions and biases. We also need the group to do external work—looking at how structures and institutions can create systemic barriers and imbalances. Doing both, we can create new connections, revisioning relationships and structures.
It is internal work for each individual, but it is collective internal work that supports the external work. We must remember that, so we can be responsible for how our individual traumas and understandings impact the way we operate in the world.
Inauthenticity in our relationships
Who we are on the inside impacts all our relationships and how we work within institutions.
In our families, in our workplace, and in activist and change-making groups, we show up as we are, wherever we are. If we cannot name what our true experiences are in the context of our broader society, we misunderstand ourselves and one another.
Women of color need spaces and places to tend to internalized racism. White women must consider and understand how they are impacted by white dominant culture. There are places where we must work separately and places where we must support and learn from each other.
Authenticity, analysis and reflection can shift our historical responses to trauma in ways that generate healing and compassion. This work then allows for alignment in the necessary work of addressing inequity and building a world in which we all belong.
Where Light in the Shadows can help
Watching the film with others, supported by with the conversation guide, provides a framework for the type of exposure to the multiple perspectives that inform our responses to racism. If we can listen deeply and acknowledge the brokenness of our relationships, that in spite of the best intentions interferes with our ability to deeply connect, we can understand the root causes of our injuries. Healing work is necessary. We can be bold— we can explore systemic oppression and its interface with dominant white culture, no matter what our backgrounds are. And not surprisingly, the learning we gain is transferrable to other elements of our lives. We gain wisdom, individually and collectively.
We can never fully know another person. White people can never fully know what living life as a person of color inside a racist society feels like. People of color do not understand what it means to be white. But what Light in the Shadows exposes is the importance of making these connections to end cycles of oppressions, both internally and externally. This is powerful. This is creating the world we want to live in.