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Dismantling Racism Workshop Held by Green Party at National Meeting

This article was posted to the GP-US Diversity Committee list-serve. The author requested that if someone posts her article, they post it in full.

Dismantling Racism Workshop Held by Green Party at National Meeting

By Isabelle Buonocore

The Green Party of the United States offered a Dismantling Racism Workshop, July 11-13, 2007, at its annual national meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was an intensive 18-hour workshop, held over 3 consecutive days, with attendees working together and having meals together. There were 29 participants, 45 percent of whom were people of color, and 39 percent were non-Green Party members who came from places in Pennsylvania as close as Reading and as far as Harrisburg. I was a participant and am a member of the Green Party of Philadelphia.

Facilitators

Rita Harris, a woman of color from Tennessee, and Bill Price, a white man from West Virgina, facilitated the workshop. They took turns providing information and facilitating group sharing and discussion. In one of the workshop sessions, Rita and Bill facilitated separate color and white caucuses giving people a chance to “work” within their own identity group. Rita and Bill are professionals who work for the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Club. They donated their time to facilitate this workshop, purely out of their commitment to do the important work of dismantling racism. They were pleased to help Green Party members who saw the need for this workshop and who requested their assistance.

All Workshops Are Not Alike

The workshop began on a Wednesday with a private dinner buffet in the same room that cloistered the participants for all their workshop sessions till noon on Friday. One of the participants told me he had been to four dismantling racism workshops before this one, and I asked him why he was attending yet another one. He said they’re all different and he learns something new from each one. But, he said, this workshop facilitated by Rita and Bill was the best.it was well paced and brought up topics in a good order and progression. It was also a bargain, $10 _ $20 registration fee based on ability to pay, and this person said he would donate $200 to help cover workshop expenses. I have seen workshops of this type advertised for $500 registration.

Racism and White Privilege

The workshop dealt with individuals’ experience, lack of experience,

consciousness, and denial of racism. It examined racism in assumptions, communication, and practices from the personal to the cultural and institutional. The cycle of oppression and “white privilege” were concepts that we explored. We also discussed the meaning of “white allies” and what white people and people of color might do on a personal and organizational level to confront racism. The grinding effect of racism on the lives of people of color, the lack of awareness of white privilege by whites, and the impact of both was discussed.

Oppression

During the workshop, one of the films we viewed was about the experiment of a second-grade schoolteacher who one morning divided her class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed children. She told the children that all the blue-eyed children were smarter, cleaner, and all around better than the brown-eyed children and they were not to play with the brown-eyed children. The next morning she told the children the reverse: that the brown-eyed children were smarter, cleaner, and all around better than the blue-eyed children and that they were not to play with the blue-eyed children. The film shows how in a matter of hours the children were affected by this information. The children assigned to the inferior group did poorly in schoolwork and were sad and upset, even angry.

White Allies

One of the Dismantling Racism Workshop sessions addressed the subject of “white allies” for people of color (white persons who do not remain silent but confront racism). We shared our experience of how people of color and white people are treated when they bring up the need to address racism in predominantly white organizations. When a person of color brings up racism it is seen by whites as self_serving. To be a white ally for people of color is to risk having other white people not like you.

Becoming an Anti-Racist Party

In our workshop materials we had a chart that defines six steps on a continuum of becoming an anti-racist, multi-cultural institution. The six steps are:

Step 1. Exclusive: A segregated institution

Step 2. Passive: A “club” institution

Step 3. Symbolic Change: A multicultural institution

Step 4. Identity Change: An anti-racist institution

Step 5. Structural Change: A transforming institution

Step 6. Fully Inclusive: A transformed institution in a transformed society

My own analysis is that the Green Party (local, state, and national levels) straddles Step 2 and Step 3.

Here is the full definition of Step 2  – Passive:

a. Tolerant of a limited number of People of Color with “proper” perspective and credentials.

b. May still secretly limit or exclude People of Color in contradiction to public policies

c. Continues to intentionally maintain white power and privilege through its formal policies and practices, teachings, and decision-making on all levels of institutional life.

d. Often declares, “We don’t have a problem.

Here is the full definition of Step 3  – Symbolic Change:

a. Makes official policy pronouncements regarding multicultural diversity

b. Sees itself as “non-racist” institution with open doors to People of Color

c. Carries out intentional inclusiveness efforts, recruiting “someone of color” on committees or office staff

d. Expanding view of diversity includes other socially oppressed groups such as women, disabled, elderly and children, lesbian, and gays, Third World citizens, etc.

BUT

e. “Not those who make waves”

f. Little or no contextual change in culture, policies, and decision-making

g. Is still relatively unaware of continuing patterns of privilege, paternalism and control

What We Can Do

Our last workshop session was about actions we could take toward dismantling racism, and how we could work to transform our organizations to be fully inclusive. The list of what we could do is long, but I’ll mention a few things. Become better educated about people of color. Read publications by people of color — outside the white canon of writers. Listen to what people of color have to say. Interrupt “jokes” about people of color and ethnic groups. At all future Green Party Annual National Meetings, have racism on the agenda either as a workshop or a panel presentation. Have strategic meetings with Greens who think “we don’t have a problem.” Don’t stifle anger . it represents something that needs to be heard; determine what that is. Primarily we must keep in mind that we cannot expect change if we keep doing things the same way.

Workshop Expenses and Donations

The Dismantling Racism Workshop was a unique offering at the Green Party Annual National Meeting. When Diane White (Green Party of Pennsylvania) and I drafted the proposal for this workshop to the Annual National Meeting Committee, we knew it would be expensive to run even though our facilitators were donating their time. Expenses included seven meals and workbook materials for each participant. We also needed money to tip the hotel staff who served the workshop dinners and we needed to pay the airfare and lodging for our facilitators. We were firmly committed to having an inclusive workshop regardless of a person’s income, and this added to our expenses.

Through small registration fees and collection of pledges from private donors, I am raising the money to help pay all the workshop expenses. If anyone reading this has made a pledge but not sent me their check, please do so today! The pledge total thus far is not enough to cover our expenses so if anyone who has not made a pledge can send a check it would be greatly appreciated.

Checks should be made out to the Green Party of Pennsylvania and mailed to me, Isabelle Buonocore, 116 Carpenter St., Rear 1, Philadelphia PA 19147. [Political donations are not tax-deductible, but are greatly appreciated.]

A list of all donors will be published soon. Please write a check and get on the list!

[Please reprint/repost in full only and credit author.]

* Link to poem written at the Dismantling Racism Workshop in Reading

2 Responses

  1. […] Dismantling Racism Workshop Held by Green Party at National Meeting […]

  2. […] The way background: Before this happened, Diane White’s activism included setting up the “Dismantling Racism Workshop” at the Green Party Annual National Meeting in Reading, PA: http://www.onthewilderside.com/2007/07/21/dismantling-racism-workshop-held-by-green-party-at-natio… […]

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