2019 UC Mental Health Best Practice Conference
Photo by: Mike Dawkins, Mike D Photography
With Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, at Roger Williams University 2018
Standard Choices for Keynote or Fireside Chat Presentations:
If you would like something more “organic” and one of a kind, choose the Fireside Chat format. In the virtual environment we have found the Fireside Chat to be more impactful.
Seeing the Racial Water
What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless yet is deeply divided by race? I will describe the way race shapes the lives of White people, explain what makes racism so hard for White people to see, and identify common White racial patterns that prevent us from moving towards greater racial equity. Weaving information, analysis, stories, images, and familiar examples, I provide the framework needed to develop white racial literacy. Although the focus is on white racial identity development, people of color may also find the analysis valuable as it is one that is rarely affirmed or provided in mainstream society. “Seeing the Racial Water” provides an essential foundation for building white racial literacy.
White people in the U.S. live in a racially insular social environment. This insulation builds our expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering our stamina for enduring racial stress. I term this lack of racial stamina “White Fragility.” White Fragility is a state in which even a minimal challenge to the white position becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive responses. These responses function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and maintain white control. Those who see themselves as “the choir” can be particularly challenging, for we tend to focus on “evidence of our advancement” rather than reach for humility and continually grapple with how to engage in intentional action. This talk will provide an overview of the socialization that inculcates white fragility and provide the perspectives and skills needed for white people to build their racial stamina and develop more equitable racial practices. This session may also benefit people of color who are vastly underrepresented in an organization and/or wonder how we manage to remain unaware and why we are so difficult to talk to about racism.
Keynotes can range from 75-90 minutes
Approach: I take an anti-racist approach. An anti-racist approach rests upon these basic tenets:
- Racism is the foundation of Western society; we are socialized into a racial hierarchy
- All of us are shaped by the forces of racism; no one is exempt
- All white people benefit from the racial hierarchy, regardless of intentions
- No one chose to be socialized into racism (so no one is “bad”)
- Racism must be continually identified, analyzed and challenged; no one is ever done
- The question is not if racism is at play, but how is it at play?
- The racial hierarchy is invisible and taken for granted for most white people
My work seeks to make racism more visible so that it can be challenged. In recognition of the above tenets, I make sure to: (1) set a constructive climate for grappling with sensitive issues through role-modeling and use of self, (2) take into account the groups’ racial diversity and how that impacts the group’s dynamics, (3) balance the intellectual with the emotional components of learning, and (4) make continuing learning resources available. In addition to content knowledge, my expertise is in clearly and accessibly presenting information that is politically and emotionally charged. My primary objective is to deepen cross-racial skills and relationships and build the commitment and capacity to continue working towards racial justice.
- Provide a shared framework for differentiating between: prejudice, discrimination, and systematic racism
- Understand the basic dynamics of current race relations in the U.S.
- Examine the concept of whiteness and white racial socialization
- Identify and make everyday patterns of whiteness recognizable
- Recognize common barriers to bridging racial divides and introduce the skills necessary for bridging them
- Recognize the above as an on-going process and build motivation to continue
- Identify resources for supporting the work of racial equity
Sessions should be supported by follow-up in order to reinforce learning and convey leadership commitment to the presentation goals. I can support you in sustaining the work in your organization via film showings, lunch time discussions, creating caucus groups, development of a Change Team, etc.