Monday, November 23, 2015

Standing Up Against Racism

One of my churches, Christ Church Presbyterian,  held several Study Worships this Fall.  One was titled Standing Up To Racism: Black Lives Matter.  I had the privilege of organizing and facilitating the session.  What follows are a "baker's dozen" list of actions an individual might take if they wanted to move from study to action in terms of actually doing something about the reality systemic racism we live within.  I'm publishing it here to make it available to others.

Standing Up Against Racism Ideas: A baker’s dozen
“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.” Finley Peter Dunne, 1902 

1. Go on-line and slowly read aloud “Mother to Son” (or any other poem by Langston Hughes). Quietly reflect for ten minutes on the poem, the life of the Mother speaking, and your own life. Where do they touch? Where do they divide? What new feelings and thoughts did you have after this meditation? Share your thoughts with another person. 

2. Take a workshop at the Peace and Justice Center. Practice talking about racism in your life and the lives of others. Example...Saturdays, October 3rd and 10th from 3- 6pm, How To Talk To Kids About Racism (a two-part facilitated discussion group), at the Obrien Center, 32 Malletts Bay Ave. in Winooski. 

3. Speak up when you think someone has made a racist comment. Say what you think, say how you feel. Say how you think the comment would make the person or people towards who it was directed feel. 

4. Take a week’s worth of the Burlington Free Press. Cut out all the articles that you feel illustrate racial injustice. Mount them on a piece of chart paper. Cut out all the articles that you feel illustrate racial injustice. Mount them on another piece of chart paper. Cut out the articles for which you aren’t sure. Mount them. Keep the charts in a prominent place for a week’s time. At the end of the week, move any of the articles for which your thinking has changed. Why do you suppose your thinking has changed? 

5. Think about your growing up. What kind of teaching did you parents do with you about how you were to behave in settings with people who were “different from you”. If you didn’t experience this, why do you suppose that is true. How do you feel now about this question? How would you rate this question in terms of “life saving advice”? Is it an important question for all of us to consider? Why? 

6. Have a conversation with a white friend who has a child of color. Ask them about their experiences with racism in our community. Ask them what they’ve learned to do about it, with their children, and with their community. Ask them if your asking the questions will change your relationship with that person. 

7. If you are in a book discussion book, advocate for choosing a book that tells the life of growing up Black in this country. Example: Negroland:  A Memoir by Marge Jefferson, or Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. As your group discusses the book, try to identify comments that might illuminate an attitude of white supremacy. Talk about that as well. 

8. Find a small group of CCPrs and commit to attending the three part workshop at the Peace and Justice Center called Building Empathy and Addressing Racial Oppression, December 2nd, 9th, and 16th, 6-730pm. 

10. With a friend, borrow or buy The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Each of you set aside an hour where you can be alone with the book, a pencil, and a pad of paper. Separately, open the book to any page and read for 35 minutes. Then, draw your feelings about what you’ve read on a sheet of paper. Use drawings, diagrams, words, lines, arrows, anything to express what your are feeling and what has caused those feelings. Get back together with your friend and share what you drew, wrote, and thought. Each of you find two friends and have them repeat the experience. 

11. Support groups in Vermont that fight racism and serve people of color. 
• Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
• Vermont African American Heritage Trail
• Association of Africans Living In Vermont
• Burlington Bicycle Project 

12. Sign up to read to kids in the Burlington Schools during Reading To End Racism week. Volunteer to read to kids on a regular basis. Volunteer to help with homework. Volunteer so you can have regular conversations with people who are different than you. 

13. Watch the next debates with a few friends. Think about how people of color might understand what is being said by the candidates. Together with your friends, publish a “watch-list” of perspectives from the debate that might be denigrating to people of color and their allies. Write to the candidate’s campaigns and share your concerns. 

14. Take a look at anti-racist street signs along 14th St. in NYCity. How might we incorporate this idea (signs or comments) to help us here at CCP focus an initiative to stand up to racism in our community, especially with a new Black superintendent of schools. How might we help this man be successful? Would we even want to try? 

cr 9-27-15

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