maura @ 5:42 pm
With August half over it’s tempting to look at my list of stuff I wanted to accomplish this summer and cringe a bit. I haven’t gotten as far as I’d like to with the home improvement tasks, reading/playing games/watching movies, or weekend daytripping as I hoped. OTOH, we had two nice vacations and I’ve done a fair amount of reading and writing for ongoing and new research projects.
I’ve actually done a huge amount of reading this summer, full stop. Much of that is in the service of my growing interest in anti-racist work. Like lots of well-meaning white folks I started self-educating in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. I was pretty appalled at what I didn’t know about civil rights history and structural racism in the U.S., to be honest. It’s really depressing what’s not taught in school, and as a high school and college and graduate student I didn’t go to any great lengths to seek out this learning so was able to remain blissfully ignorant for far too long (hello, white privilege).
So I started reading, reading, reading. Twitter helps — I follow a buncha radical librarians and academics of all sorts, lots of sociologists and others doing anti-racist work. The past year’s protests have also used twitter to spread information, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity that twitter affords to listen in on conversations and learn. As much as I feel drawn to protesting, feel like I want to want to be there, I’m enough of an introvert and not a big fan of crowds to know that marches are not really going to work for me. But I’ve increasingly felt like I need to do more than just read, tweet, and retweet.
So this summer I tried to kick it up a notch. In July I participated in a 2 1/2 day workshop called Undoing Racism, sponsored by the Anti-Racist Alliance. While it wasn’t a CUNY thing it was held at Baruch College and there were lots of Baruch folks there as well as other educators, social workers, and others. White folks were in the majority though there were lots of people of color there as well, and we all came in with an interest in doing anti-racist work, which set the stage well. Less satisfying was that folks were at all different stages of understanding structural racism and white supremacy, which sometimes made it feel like the black participants were teaching the white participants about racism (something one of the black participants identified). It was also a big group — there were probably about 45 of us — and it seemed like we were rushing through at the end, perhaps because it was hard to get through the schedule with so many folks in the conversation? It ended up being somewhat light on concrete actions we can take to help dismantle racism, which was a bit disappointing. The Anti-Racist Alliance holds monthly group meetings as well as the workshops — there’s a group especially for educators that meets during the school year and I think I’ll try to make it to one of the meetings to see what they’re like.
This month I’m participating in an online course offered by social justice activist Patti Digh called Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism, Unconscious Racism, and Silent Racism. The course is great though a lot (LOT!) of work — I’m putting in about an hour each evening on average and I could definitely be spending more time on it. In some ways the course is similar to last month’s workshop in that it seems like it’s more white folks than POC and everyone’s at a different place in their prior knowledge about racism. While there’s much more to read (as well as videos to watch) in this course, there’s also more time to process and discuss, which we do on forums devoted to a question about each topic or reading. So far I’ve read some things that are new to me and some that I’d read before, and like some of the other participants I’m eager to get to the “things we white folks can do” part of the course. But since the course is 4 weeks (this is the end of week 2) I trust that we’ll get there. It’s also a very big course (my first non-open MOOC!) — about 2,500 people signed up and probably about 300-500 are actively participating in the forum discussions. I’ve tried to follow threads of interest to me and do respond to folks but that’s really where I could spend more time, reading and commenting on my classmates’ forum posts.
Tonight we have a huge giant phone call with the Hard Conversations course and I admit to being a little bit nervous. There was a call last week that I had to miss, and even after listening to the recording of the call I’m still not sure how a call with this many participants will work. In a few hours I guess I will find out.