by Amy Halberstadt
Seeing Our Blind Spots: Addressing Racism and Working for Racial Equity: A workshop presented by Joe Cole on May 25, 2019
As much as I have studied racism in the United States, both its history and its very present effects on our day-to-day lives…and also as I have learned how White people rarely know the frequency with which Black people and other people of color are affected by past and present racism…and, also how White people themselves are affected…as much as I have studied all of this, I am aware of how much I still have to learn.
Joe Cole offered a comprehensive and stunning workshop as a part of our Last Saturday series, sponsored by the Membership & Marketing Circle. (For Joe’s handouts, click here)
Here are a few highlights:
- There was the early history lesson about how the language of “Black” and “White” was created in the 1600s-1700s, largely to create disunity among all the poor people of both groups in America.
- Then there was the more recent history lesson which explained how the GI Bill, Social Security, and federal lending practices in the 1950s and beyond worked to sharply increase the wealth gap between White people and other populations living in the U.S. Similar practices continue today through the overuse of standardized testing, under-funding of schools that serve communities of color and lower-income communities, inequities as to who receives health and retirement benefits, and unfair lending practices regarding home mortgages and small businesses.
- Then there was the truth that things are not getting better, in fact, they are getting worse. For example, the median White income is TWELVE times that of the median Black income. Young Black children are being suspended at almost 4 times the rate of young White children, and, of course, we are well aware of the danger of “driving while Black”.
The sizeable group at Hart’s Nest shared personal experiences and awareness of racism, feelings of caring deeply about racism and its power to create harm. Joe shared many handouts to help us examine how segregated our lives are currently and how we might want to change that; how to think more deeply about microaggressions to avoid committing them; and how to think about the questions we sometimes have (that we don’t want to admit to) such as feelings associated with White privilege, including guilt, discomfort with being White, and difficulty recognizing the parts of “White identity” that we might carry (okay, that one is me!).
And there was a lot of information about the connections between racism and sustainability, and how important it is to be aware of racism so as to create a socially just and fully sustainable community. Head’s up, Hart’s Mill–this means US!
People appreciated the pacing and varied activities of the 3-hour session, which began with a meditation to help us relax and focus. After a break we did some Chi Gung to help engage with our energy. The opportunity to hear each other’s stories about racism and the possibilities beyond racism was a favorite. These stories were sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes hopeful, and all were compelling examples of how significantly all of our lives have been influenced by racism. The many gems and resources Joe offered to help us to understand racism and privilege, as well as how to organize to effect change within ourselves, our community, and the world, were greatly appreciated by all.
For sure, many of us will continue these conversations further in small groups; we will brainstorm ways to incorporate the themes of social, racial, and environmental justice in our community; and we will be sharing with you our thoughts and ideas. Please be in touch with what’s on your mind about racism, what you’d like to see happening at Hart’s Mill, and what you can offer. We’re all ears!
Remember, childcare is available for all of our meetings and events upon request!