CSCO White Caucus Facilitator's Guide
Introductions: Have everyone introduce themselves by saying their name, pronouns and what brings them to this work
“Risk” by Lisa Colt
My teacher says,
You’ve got to stink first.
I tell her, I don’t have time to stink.
At 64 years old
I go directly to perfection
Or I go nowhere.
Perfection is nowhere,
She says, So stink.
Stink like a beginner,
Stink like decaying flesh,
I know a woman who’s eighty-six,
Last year she learned to dive
[Though yourself facilitated session 1 likely won’t be in both English and Spanish, all other sessions will be, so it is important for all of the participants to know why]
Language justice is about decentering English as the only language spoken, and becoming patient with the process of ensuring everyone can understand. Even though there may be few people on this webinar who need Spanish interpretation, when you do immigration work English is not always the language most folks speak.
Having the patience to listen as all are able to receive the content in their language is a good way to learn humility and to add space to take in content. Think about what’s being said deeply, use the time to pay attention to how it feels to wait, let the learning or discomfort teach you.
Meditation on Messing Up (15m)
We’re going to start today with a meditation on messing up.
One of the characteristics of white supremacy culture identified by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun is perfectionism which makes us see mistakes as personal reflections on the quality of person we are, rather than an inevitable part of life.
That means there is little to no time given to learning from our mistakes because if we admit we made one in the first place, then we just said we are a bad person.
So one of the first things we need to do to become better accomplices and allies in this work is to start breaking down that belief in ourselves.
That’s where our meditation comes in. Please ground yourself wherever you are and get into a comfortable position.
Close your eyes if you feel comfortable and if not, soften your gaze.
Let’s take three deep breaths together like this. One...Two...Three
Now, I am going to say something that is 100% true, and I want you to notice what emotions come up for you and notice how your body reacts when I say it.
You have, while doing your justice work, harmed a person of color…
Take a minute and name the emotions that you are feeling right now. Notice where in your body you had physical reactions as well. Take one minute to write down your reactions so you can refer back to them later.
Now we are going to ask you to be vulnerable by sharing which of the common reactions below you had during this exercise. Raise your hand if you experienced any of the following [facilitator list the following]
- My muscles tensed up
- My stomach dropped or got fluttery
- Tears came to my eyes
- I felt flushed/overly warm
- I immediately shook my head without thinking
- I felt angry
- My immediate thought was “no I haven’t”
- My first reaction was to think “of course I have”
[Discuss any other reactions people had]
Like I said, all of those reactions are really common, especially those that are defensive, angry, and sad, because let’s face it, it is hard to hear that we have hurt people.
I also want you to notice how many of the physical reactions are similar to how you feel when you are excited about something. Picture yourself on a roller coaster, you’re at the very top and about to swoop down. It’s a little bit scary, but in a good way. Your muscles tense up preparing for the swoop. As the roller coaster speeds down and around the curves your stomach drops, you feel flushed maybe. These are our physical responses to risk and excitement and growth.
Read Examples from Lucy and Heather
I was part of a pretty amazing group of folks who worked to shift the culture of a school where my son was a student. But that work hurt some people in the process of moving forward, and I hurt folks as we moved forward. One friend was an African American woman who was co-chair of the Family Diversity committee. She was a visionary leader of the work, but was marginalized in the process. She wasn’t invited to sessions in which Board folks were planning the new strategic plan, and she began to feel the school was not the right place for her daughter.
One evening we had a well facilitated session right after she had decided to pull her daughter from the school. She shared her story of being pushed aside in strategic planning and decision making and quoted Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye saying the soil in the context of the school was poisoned soil for her child. That moment provoked a crisis in the school that moved things forward, but my friend left the school.
I had lunch with her the next year. I wanted to share all the changes that "we" had brought about since she left. I didn't realize that those changes were built on her pain, and that of course they were not as deep as I believed they were, we were only beginning, really. At one point I said, "I could see why you got impatient with the process,” in a way that assumed if she had stuck around things would have gotten better and that did not acknowledge the depth of the harm caused my friend by the school. I didn’t see her after that lunch time. I feel a lot of shame for how my white assumptions and how I marginalized her experience. I can see why she didn’t reach out again. It’s likely time for me to reach out to her. I have too many stories like this, of losing friendships because I was too unaware of my white perspective and how it limited my vision and understanding. I took in that mistake and have learned from it, to listen with humility to my friends of color’s experiences, and I have made that mistake too many times.
When I was in grad school getting my masters in public administration, I studied health disparities in the US. I was doing a lot of reading and studying about the effects that racism and sexism specifically had on the lives of people of color, so I thought I was good when it came to social justice work. I mean, I was preparing to spend my life to reduce child mortality in black communities. Of course I wasn’t racist. In my first year, I took a grantmaking class and we had to make up a project that we would write a practice grant for. We had to find a real grant making organization, figure out what they required and then write the grant, though never submit it. Eventually, we had to present out idea to the class, so I shared mine which was to bring healthy cooking classes into inner cities to teach the people there how to cook healthy inexpensive meals.
One of my fellow students raised her hand and let me have it. You see, she grew up in the type of neighborhood I was talking about, so she knew that the problem was not that people didn’t know how to cook healthy foods, but that they lived in food desserts, healthier food is more expensive, they didn’t have time after working multiple jobs, and on and on. My privilege and my racism was showing. I was listening to the story in my head that said poor people were uneducated and so just teach them and that will solve the issue. I was listening to the story that if a poor person of color just changed the way they as an individual did something, their life would change which completely disregards the systemic nature of oppression.
My body can still remember how I reacted in that moment. I turned beet red, my breathing got faster and the shame was intense. I felt really defensive, but thankfully, I had done enough work up to that point that I didn’t try to defend myself. I let myself sit with the feelings and worked to integrate what had happened later. That moment was incredibly important for my growth in antiracism work. I needed that shock to my system to move from a wanting to “save” people, to understanding that I need to be in relationship with people directly impacted by injustice.
Journal regarding a time you messed up that lead to growth, have a few people share
- journal for 3 minutes, song to play while journaling
White Fragility (20min)
Please raise your hand if you have heard the term white fragility before
You will read more about this in your homework after this session, but Robin D’Angelo says the following about white fragility.
“White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress [...] White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.”
This is a helpful frame for our thinking because it shows that everyone has emotional and physical reactions to race-based stress.The problem is that white people are so insulated from it on a day to day basis that we don’t know how to respond to that stress in effective, caring intentional and anti-racist ways. The only way to get better at that and thus less fragile, is to practice feeling that type of stress and modifying our reactions - thus building up our muscles.That’s why we did the meditation earlier. To manufacture some race-based stress, so you could reflect on what that feels like while reframing those feelings from purely negative to potential growth.
Over the next five weeks, you will likely experience some race-based stress. You may be corrected by another member of this group about something you have said or done, you may hear us talk about something problematic that you have done in the past, you may hear or read things that you don’t understand or agree with from those who are directly impacted by immigration and racial injustice in this country.
- When that happens, remind yourself that growth is uncomfortable and everytime we experience our own reactions and work not to respond in fragile ways, we are building up our resilience.
- We also have to acknowledge that this is long haul work. We will never get to a place where we are perfect at being allies and accomplices in this work.
- What we can work towards is making sure that people know that we can hear when we have made a mistake and that people trust that we will learn from it and make different mistakes in the future.
- With that in mind, we white folks need to build networks of support for each other in this work. That is one of many reasons why we caucus like we are doing now.
- We need to create a community of care and spiritual growth together where we hold each other where we are at in our anti-racist development and love each other enough to be honest and kind to each other rather than “nice” and non-confrontational.
Symptoms of White Supremacy Culture (20min)
This is a tool we use written by Tema Okun which has been really helpful in raising awareness and interrupting patterns of white supremacy. If we are aware of the patterns and attributes of white supremacy culture, then we can mindfully interrupt those patterns. These attributes often arise in the context of ally work, and can deeply harm relationships and the ability to work together, so are key to be aware of.
- Little appreciation expressed for the work others are doing
- No learning from mistakes
- Not appreciating one’s own good work
- Pointing out inadequacies, rather than offering appreciation
- Realistic work plans
- Understanding that things take longer than anticipated: focus on relationships
- Slow down the process to include more voices and listen
Sense of urgency
- Moving fast so don’t take time to be inclusive with others
- Results rather than relationships, win victories for white people
- Not thinking longer term
- Take time to make collaborative decisions
- Focus more on process than “getting it done”
- “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
- Little value in sharing power
- Power seen as limited, only so much to go around
- Those with power feel threatened when anyone suggests changes in how things are
- Assume have best interest of others at heart; those wanting change are ill-informed
- One addition: disavowal of power
- Share power, acknowledge the power you hold
- Challenges and questions to how things are done are healthy
- Develop and center power and leadership of others
Attributes (MAY CUT THIS ONE IF WE RUN OUT OF TIME)
- People in power scared of expressed conflict, ignore it
- When someone raises and issue that causes discomfort, response it to blame the person raising it
- Emphasis on being polite
- Learn techniques for embracing conflict
- Distinguish between being polite and raising hard issues
The facilitation team for CSCO uses this tool every time we meet. We use it sometimes to interrupt the pattern in the midst of meetings, but we also use it to reflect on our meetings as we are signing up and name how the white supremacy culture attributes have come up and how we have enacted the antidotes. We recommend using this tool in your group as a practice.
Do’s and Don’t’s /Demands from POC group (10m) :
Tuesday, the POC group also met and one of the things they worked on is a set of demands for us so that we can make this course a truly anti-racist space.
Once we have that from them, we will be sending it along to the group. Look at them when we send them. You will have feelings about them, sit with those feelings and reflect on your own as well as with your group if you have them. Reach out to Lucy or Heather if you need extra support. Open office hours with Lucy and heather will be on Friday next week from 4 to 6 p.m. EST One of the things that we as white folks need to work on is holding each other accountable to those demands and to our own growth. We can’t leave it up to the people of color to call us back into anti-racist practice when we make mistakes. That includes during the remaining 4 sessions as well as in conversation in the Facebook group and during group meetings. We should all be prepared to be corrected during our time together and we ask that you work hard to really hear that correction if it comes your way as the gift that it is. If you see someone make a mistake during the course, we ask that you work hard to love that person enough to help their growth and to say something, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
Finally, if you are struggling with any of this through our time together in this course, we ask that you ask another white identified person to help you work through those feelings rather than one of the people of color in the course. They do a lot of emotional labor for us white folks already.
Closing (1m) - Beloved Community meditation
We want to close today with another meditation, so please ground yourself where you are again. Get comfortable and close your eyes or soften your gaze.
- Start by calling your attention to your body. Take a deep breath in...and slowly let it out.
- Where is there tension in your body? Do you feel tight anywhere? Are your muscles hunched or your stomach fluttering?
- Know whatever you are feeling in your body right now, it is the product of your love for justice...a product of your yearning for growth.
- Now cast your mind five months into the future. We have ended our course. Where in your body will you feel that growth?
- Place your hand there if you feel comfortable doing so.
- Take a deep breath in...and slowly release it.
- Finally, cast your mind farther into the future, to a time when all have committed to doing this inner work.
- When we have built the beloved community which is not a community without conflict or hurt, but one with so much love and trust in each other we are in deep relationship.
- Picture what that looks like for you. What does it feel like? Who is there with you?
- Take a deep breath in and slowly release it knowing that it is that place, that beloved community that you are doing this hard and vital work for.