To create a world that is racially equitable and just, we need coalitions comprised of multi-racial participants who can truly hear each other. We need to form a healthy way of interacting. Organizations and infrastructure cannot function effectively without a shared foundation of trust, openness, and mutual respect. In our film, Light in the Shadows: Staying at the Table when the Conversation about Race Gets Hard, we see that positive change arises when we deeply understand ourselves, and can be open to creating a rapport with others.
Our summer of #JusticeandRacialHealing concludes this week. As we wrap up, here are several ideas that can help you develop mutually beneficial relationships within social justice advocacy work that supports change. These tips — similar to the themes we've explored this Summer from Light in the Shadows — are timeless.
Notice inherent patterns in the systems that polarize us. To change something we have to be able to name it. Observe the extreme conservatism, us-versus-them rhetoric, and individualism, as opposed to the calls for radical connection and communal organizing.
Challenge your inner perspectives. Systems thinking is not just about understanding patterns and relationships at the external level. We must explore our own biases, too. The conversations in Light in the Shadows — and where those conversations broke down — show why we need to push the needle forward in ways that incorporate both external and internal collective work.
Do cross-silo work. Let’s work through the places where we typically get stuck with one another. In our families, friendships, communities, and institutions, we can often hear one trigger phrase and stop listening. That’s where our work begins. At World Trust we often use strategic questioning practices as described in this article by Fran Peavey which offers new approaches for personal and social change. .Strategic questioning creates answers that may not be immdiately known but emerge over time.
Create spaces for women of color. Light in the Shadows follows a multi-racial conversation, the intersection of white women and women of color. But there still needs to be space for women of color to discuss and heal, without the added challenge of having to address white women’s concerns. We recommend that affinity groups utilize our conversation guide to address issues freely amongst themselves.
Acknowledge collective experiences but don’t presume shared individual experiences, even among groups of similar backgrounds. Internalized racism is often unaddressed when talking about race. Diifferences in class, education, or skin tone, among others can be barriers in circles of women of color to building powerful relationships that can produce the healing that is so neccessary. Even if we self-categorize similarly, we must respect our unique backgrounds enough to inquire, and not assume. We must not let our differences deter us from collective healing and action.
At the same time we must all be able to see our own experience as part of a bigger, collective historical unfolding. For white women this can be very difficult. As they become more aware of the deep horrors of racism both in the past and present, white women often want to distance themselves from other white people and ignore their participation and collective impact as part of white dominant culture. This impulse may be even stronger if they have other identities that are outside of mainstream white culture (low socio-economic status, differently abled, LGBTQ identities, non-Christian, etc.). Another common pitfall with white women, especially in social justice circles, is that there can be competition within a group as to who is the most "woke" to racism. This discord does nothing to support a collective will and mobilization to end racism.
Genuine curiosity and communication among all people can help build trust. We can always learn more from each other when our hearts and minds are open.
Thank you for engaging with us during the summer of #JusticeandRacialHealing.
If your missed our prior blog posts this summer check out:
- Giving each other space to be more human
- A film participant reflects on her experience, 15 years later
- Healing the Cycles of Oppression
- A second act: Re-Introducing our film Light in the Shadows
We hope these blogs, the new conversation guide and the re-released film support your relationships and change-making work. It is through deep inquiry, connection, healing and collective action that we will co-create a world infused with justice. Thank you for all you do. Let us know how we can further support you.