Confronting Racism

 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.

Social Activist for Racial Equity

Facilitating Discussions about Racism

 

617-462-6642

gbigonet@icloud.com

           

 

Workshop Logistics

 

"There is no social-change fairy. There is only

change made by the hands of individuals."

Winona LaDuke

 

I have started to formulate a couple of different workshops as listed under the Workshops and Support Tab. I suspect as this work evolves so will the workshops and the topics. If there is something that you would like to discuss in a group setting that is not listed please contact me and we can discuss making it happen.

 

When and Where Will These Workshops Happen? 

 

All workshops will be on zoom until it is safe for us to congregate in person. My goal is to restrict group size to eight participants in each group so that each member will have sufficient time to share and so that the group will be more able to create a sense of safety which will allow for deepening the level of vulnerability in each group.

 

The timing and duration of each group will be defined by the topic covered or by the participants of the group who may want to discuss numerous topics as one group. During the workshops we will often break into pairs or smaller groups to discuss or process a particular topic in detail and then come back to the whole group to process and share about our insights.

 

Individual workshops will be scheduled once a minimum of four people have expressed an interest in a particular topic. If you see a workshop listed that you'd be interested in attending let me know and we'll get one started as soon as we have enough people to make it worthwhile for everyone. Please feel free to express your interest in as many workshops as you wish. 

 

Fees for Participation 

 

There will be no charge for any group or discussion unless the group includes a person of color who is giving us their perspectives or knowledge about a particular subject. In that case all fees will go to that individual to compensate them for their time for helping us white people understand something.

 

Why do this Work as Part of a Group?  

 

Through my own personal growth work and through my work as a mental health clinician one thing that has been made clear to me is the power of working together in supportive groups. Having our experiences witnessed and held by others is a powerful mode of transforming ourselves toward our goals and inversely witnessing others experiences and similar struggles teaches us and normalizes for us much of what we can feel shame about. In short, people grow and heal when in authentic connection with others. My goal in all workshops is to create an environment that facilitates that level of connection. The emphasis of each workshop will be on self reflection to gain a better understanding of how we have knowingly or unknowingly supported racism and what actions we can take to stop from doing so in the future.

 

Goal of Creating Safety in All Discussions  

 

As I have stated in other places in this website really looking at racism in our society is very uncomfortable. I'd like to take a moment to differentiate between safety and discomfort. Although we usually feel some level of discomfort when we are unsafe, we are not always unsafe when we are feeling discomfort. It is vital to this work that we allow ourselves to feel the discomfort that arises from it while knowing that no harm is happening to us through this process. If at anytime you experience feeling unsafe I invite you to bring it up either in the group or individually after the group to help assure you are not being harmed in any way.   

 

As much of the discussions in these workshops will be personal and vulnerable I will always expect all participants to keep confidential anything that is shared by another group member besides myself. You are welcome to share what you learn about racism and about yourself but nothing about anyone else. That way everyone can feel safe to share deeply without worry that anything they share becoming gossip outside of the group.     

 

Robin DiAngelo speaks often about how hard this work is for anyone to confront and is typically much harder for white people because most of us do not do it every day. This work can bring up a lot of feelings. My goal is to help everyone hold those feelings in a productive way that helps us move forward with our understanding of this complex topic. This is work that none of us will ever complete in our lifetime. As we do it we are bound to feel confused and awkward, are bound to make mistakes and step on each other's and people of colors toes. My goal is for us to be accepting and compassionate with each other and ourselves as we make these inevitable mistakes. I'd like everyone to remember my favorite saying "Good Judgment comes from Experience, Experience comes from Bad Judgment" I look forward to getting more experience in the process with you. 

 

Like anything in life, the more we put into something the more we get out of it. I encourage all attendees to dive in as deeply as they feel capable of so that we all can get the most out of the time we spend together. 

 

Intentional Culture of these Workshops

 

If we are to replace the culture of racism in our society we need to replace it with a new culture. The following intentions are one step in that direction. Using these will create a safer and braver space for sharing and give us tools we can use for conversations inside and outside of meetings.

  • We will uphold confidentiality after this meeting. "What is learned here leaves here, what is heard here, stays here." The stories we hear are not ours to tell. (For those who share the physical space you are in during a Zoom meeting with others, we do what we can to keep the conversation private and confidential. This might include wearing headphones and/or asking others to be in another room and if they overhear, reminding them of our confidentiality agreement. If there are other folks in your physical space not on the call, we disclose that (at the beginning if possible and, if something new happens, during a meeting). We practice "immediate interruption" of things we care about, including sharing this information.)
  • We share authentically with real talk (open, honest and truthful, revealing, hard to discuss). We use "I" language and our own personal experiences, not speaking for others.
  • All of your emotions are welcome and you are responsible for caring for your emotional needs. We encourage leaning into our uncomfortable emotions to allow for healing. To this end group members will not make efforts to fix or soothe others. If you want support please ask but be aware we will not stray from the topic at hand to help someone to manage their emotions.
  • Discomfort does not equal Unsafe - Challenging our racism is uncomfortable, we are safe in our discomfort
  • We lean into discomfort and take risks; in this way we build our racial justice muscle. When we lean into discomfort we are at our growing edge, the source of discovery and learning. We acknowledge that ALL kinds of feelings are possible as we act as anti-racists. Newness/change is not ALWAYS uncomfortable; sometimes it's invigorating. And it can feel empowering to take action so ALL can benefit from a change to society!  
  • While listening, we practice focusing to understand vs. preparing to respond.
  • We work to share the air which includes proportional sharing of our time (so all have time to share), not overpowering with physical energy, or using any systemic power we have over others. So if you tend to talk a lot, try to listen more...if you prefer to listen a lot, try to talk more.
  • We leave room for silence creating space to process thoughts and feelings.
  • We can have mindful crosstalk by responding to one another after they are finished talking.
  • Intent does not equal impact. What I do might impact another differently from what I intended. I will listen and learn from feedback I get, and own the impact I had (without defensiveness).
  • We test our assumptions about each other and the work by asking questions.
  • If I realize I made a mistake with my actions and words, I can say "oops!" If I hear another say something that has a negative impact on me, I can say "ouch!" These opportunities can happen during this meeting or later; there is no time limit (and you don't have to use those exact words).
  • As there can be more than one truth at a time, we practice "both/and" instead of "either/or" or "but."
  • We refrain from blaming, shaming or attacking each other and ourselves.
  • Curiosity is welcomed and essential
  • We strive to be accepting of each other's experiences especially when they are different from ours
  • Take space/make space/share space in your life, community, and conversations. Making space to make more change towards racial-justice, speaking up during discussions AND doing more listening to see what is needed/wanted from us (esp. as white people). It isn't just about us (a tree) but the community (the forest).

 

Guiding Principles for All of These Workshops

 

The following guiding principles are to be considered a north star for all of us to adopt and embrace in this work. By incorporating these in the work we do will be more effective and more able to dive deeply into this work. With the exception of the first one the following guiding principles of this work are spelled our by Robin DiAngelo in her book White Fragility, pages 142-143. They are listed here verbatim from that book.

 

Guiding Principles for this work:

  • Racism is most concisely defined  as a system of advantage based on race, it is not about individuals but individuals do support it to varying degrees 
  • Being Good or Bad is not relevant
  • Racism is a multi-layered system embedded in our culture
  • All of us are socialized into the system of racism
  • Racism cannot be avoided
  • (People) have blind spots on racism, and I have blind spots on racism
  • Racism is complex, and I don't have to understand every nuance of the feedback to validate that feedback
  • Whites are / I am unconsciously invested in racism
  • Bias is implicit and unconscious; I don't expect to be aware of mine without a lot of ongoing effort
  • Giving us white people feedback on racism is risky for people of color, so we can consider the feedback a sign of trust
  • Feedback of white racism is difficult to give; how I am given the feedback is not as relevant as the feedback itself
  • Authentic antiracism is rarely comfortable. Discomfort is key to my growth and thus desirable
  • White comfort maintains the racial status quo, so discomfort is necessary and important
  • I must not confuse comfort with safety; as a white person, I am safe in discussions of racism
  • The antidote to guilt is action
  • It takes courage to break with white solidarity, how can I support those who do?
  • I bring my group's history with me, history matters
  • Given my socialization, it is much more likely that I am the one who doesn't understand the issue
  • Nothing exempts me from the forces of racism
  • My analysis must be intersectional (a recognition that my other social identities - class, gender, ability, etc. - inform how I was socialized into the racial system).
  •  Racism hurts (even kills) people of color 24-7. Interrupting it is more important than my feelings, ego, or self-image. 

By following these guiding principles we will be more able to discuss, understand and confront racism in our lives.

Copyright © 2020   Glenn Bigonet, M.A.