Confronting Racism

 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.

Social Activist for Racial Equity

Facilitating Discussions about Racism

 

617-462-6642

gbigonet@icloud.com

           

 

Free Workshops for White People on How to Reduce Racism

 

"If America is to grow out of white-body supremacy,

the transformation must be largely led by white Americans."

Resmaa Menakem

 

For years I have been disturbed by and frustrated by the signs of systemic racism in our society. At the same time it felt overwhelming and impossible to do anything that could make a difference around this huge and complex issue. So like many white people I witnessed it, complained about it among my friends, but did nothing of substance to really make any difference. Shortly after the public murder of George Floyd I watched a youtube video with Robin DiAngelo talking about White Fragility.

In this video she spoke to my frustrations and especially my paralysis around the issue of racism. She put my own white fragility in my face. I was humbled, ashamed and embarrassed that my own white fragility had held me back from taking action on an issue that I had felt so strongly about. In this video she was asked what she tells white people when they ask what they can do to help. She answered that white people need to look at their own whiteness, at being white as a racial identity and how they have benefitted from the system of racism in our society.   

 

The final straw for me that further inspired me to create these workshops was Robin's statement that white progressives cause more racial harm that outright racists. I can't remember if I read this in her book or heard her say it in one of the numerous youtube videos that I watched with her but it just didn't make sense to me. How could me and my good liberal progressive white friends be causing more harm than outright racists? This just baffled me. Over time, as I researched, I learned that through our color blindness, good/bad binary thinking,  white exceptionalism, tokenism, white saviorism and optical allyship we were really doing more harm because we were failing to look inside ourselves at our own racist tendencies, much of the action we were taking with good intentions was disempowering people of color and we were at the same time denying, in many ways, people of color's experience of racism. I've learned that until we break out of these ways of responding to race racism will continue to be a major part of our culture. My belief is that the way we can each have the most power toward changing our responses is to look at them, be accountable to how they support and effect people of color, and finally learn to really listen to people of color's experiences and reaction. Until we can really listen to and acknowledge how racism is effecting people of color we will continue to disenfranchise them.            

 

I immediately was clear that this is what I was meant to do next. Having worked as a mental health counselor for 25 years I was increasingly feeling less passion for my work and continually felt that it was time to move on and find something new that I would feel passion about. Now my focus is on creating workshops for white people like myself for us to confront our own implicit biases and behaviors that we unwittingly have that support the systemic racism in our society.

 

Whose Problem is Racism

 

Many white people feel hopeless to do anything about racism and that they don't contribute to it, so they say that racism is a problem of people of color. Yes, racism causes harm to people of color but they didn't create it and they didn't cause it. Racism is perpetrated and sustained by white people. As we are the ones who are doing and supporting it then it is a problem with white people, not people of color. We are in the majority so we are the only ones who can really change it.  Until we take responsible for our own racism and change it then all the levels of racial harm will continue and that is on us whether we asked for it or not.

Is This Work For You?  

If you feel like you've done your work around racism, I ask you to look again. If you tense up when you think about looking at yourself and how you have contributed to our racist ways of being I welcome you to the club. This is hard and uncomfortable work but the only way it's going to truly change is for us white people to start to address our racial system, how it benefits us over people of color, how we have been socialized to support it and how we can now take effective action to combat it.

 

The workshops I am offering will be right for you if you are someone who:

  • Cares about social justice
  • Understands that racism is an issue but don't understand how you could be a part of it  
  • Wants to understand how your unconscious biases may be harming people of color without your awareness
  • Feels discomfort around discussing racism and don't know how to have these discussions and manage those feelings
  • Has tried to talk to others about race but the conversations have never gone well
  • Experiences overwhelm when looking at racism and feel disempowered to make any positive change
  • Understands that learning about and addressing racism is a life long process and you want a supportive place to go deeper in your learning  

I invite you to read through the pages I have on many of the different aspects of racism. In each page I describe what is meant by the term and how it supports the complex web of racism today. I also share my experiences with each of these aspects including how I have thought and behaved that have caused harm or supported our racist system. I do this for me as a white man to confront my own racial biases and behaviors with the goal of reducing my racism and I do this as a model of how I hope each of us can begin to do the hard work of looking inside first and then look at how we can confront the racist system in which we live.

 

Is This Website Causing You Any Discomfort Leading to Your Wanting to Reject or Leave This Site?

 

Then welcome to an experience of your White Fragility. This stuff is hard to look at. It's hard to acknowledge that we could possibly be a part of the problem of racism. "How could that be when I'm such a good loving person?" Most of us as white people today are told in many ways to avoid discussing racism and we are often socially punished in some way when we do. We are taught to stay silent and color blind around race so as to not upset the status quo of white supremacy that we all benefit from.

 

If you are feeling discomfort while reading these pages then I am doing my job well as until we really feel the discomfort of racism and all that it entails we will continue to engage in subconsciously supporting it in our lives. 

 

What I Have to Offer 

 

I have to acknowledge up front that I am not an expert in racism. I am, however, very experienced in helping others dive inside and explore their feelings and attitudes as well as in creating exercises for groups on how to do the same. A large part of this work will be centered on our ability to hold and tolerate the difficult feelings that come up with that work. Helping others deal with difficult feelings and circumstances has been the basis of my work for the past 25 years. I look forward to supporting and learning from everyone who chooses to take this journey with me.

 

Income For Myself and Others Who Join Me In This Work  

 

I have no goal to make any money from this work. This work for me is one of helping shift the system of racism in our society. For me to make a profit off of this work seems to me, as a white man, would be another way of using my privilege for my own gain and thus contradicting the goal of this work. If you are white and would like to join me in this work as a leader, helper, or some other role I ask that you do from your heart with the goal of reducing racism and agree not to accept any money for your time and effort that you put toward this work. If you are a person of color and would like to speak about your experiences to help our groups gain a better understanding of racism then I will be charging a fee for whatever workshops you are involved with and that entire fee will be turned over to you to compensate you for the risk you are taking and for the considerable emotional energy you will be putting in to helping us white people gain a deeper understanding of racism in our society.     

 

A Note About This Website And Invitation For Feedback 

 

Throughout the pages of this website I share my own experiences and views as openly and as vulnerably as I can. I do this first as an example of the type and level of sharing I will be inviting in my groups, second to help create a greater understanding of the various issues, and third, to help myself process and understand each of the issues on a deeper level.  My sharing around these issues is deeply personal and vulnerable for me. My request is that you do your best to hold them with reverence and understanding as some of what I share I feel ashamed of or am not proud of. I do know in my heart that looking at ourselves in this way and sharing it with others is a powerful way to start to break down the systemic racism in our society.

 

Please note that this website like the work on racism is a work in process. I do not ever expect I'll be done working on these pages as I add to, and rewrite them as I gain greater knowledge of this ever complex subject. I am publishing this website woefully incomplete as I find that in writing it I feel like I can never get to the level and depth that I would ever want to. My goal is to start conversations with people about racism and I do not want to hold up having these conversations while my own white fragility and need for perfection hold me up on writing everything that I want to in these pages.

 

If you are a person of color or have done your own work around racism and see something in these pages that I have missed, misunderstood or are unintentionally racist or hurtful I invite you to reach out to me with your thoughts and feedback. I know that as a white man there is a lot I need to learn and I know I am going to make mistakes through this process. I promise to do my best to hear your feedback with curiousity and a goal of learning. If you feel I'm having trouble doing that, I ask that you let me know that as well, give me some time to self-reflect and then I will re-engage with you in a more productive manner.

An Invitation

 

If you would like to engage in a conversation about racism and how we as white people can start to confront our own racism as part of the path to confront racism in our society I encourage you to reach out to me. Let's talk. There will be group meetings in the near future and for now I am open to talking to people one on one and perhaps those conversations will be one path into the group conversations.     

            

To talk, join a workshop or for more information call me (Glenn) at 617-462-6642 or email me at gbigonet@icloud.com. To keep up on when the workshops are happening join my meet group titled Confronting Racism.

Copyright © 2020   Glenn Bigonet, M.A.