Anti-racism workshops continue the education of Imagine No Racism
June 7, 2019 / By Shannon Hodson
During lunch on Friday, June 7, at the tenth session of the Upper New York Annual Conference, the Conference Commission on Race and Religion (CCORR) held four workshops on ways to address racism. This was an effort to continue the work that began with the Imagine No Racism initiative launched in April 2018. Over 300 people participated in these workshops.
“Let’s be real for a second – there is no way in the space of an hour we can equip everyone with everything needed to effectively respond to racism,” said the Rev. Dr. Scott Johnson, CCORR member and a professor of criminal justice, as he introduced the workshop that he led with CCORR member Linda Hughes on “Strategies for Responding to Racism and Racist Incidents.”
Just as Rev. Johnson admitted the reality of a workshop not being able to cover all strategies to respond to racist incidents, this article cannot possibly provide all the insight brought forth by the committed and talented leaders of the UNY Conference who are delving into the work needed to help eliminate racism. But it will give a glimpse of the many ways that anti-racism work can be employed in local churches, our homes, and our communities as taught in the workshops.
“Why it is so Hard to Talk about Racism”
Dr. Blenda Smith, the convener of CCORR and Georgia Whitney, a Regional Coordinator for the INR initiative, presented on the topic of “Why it is so Hard to Talk about Racism” with a strong focus on micro-aggressions.
In this workshop, with over 100 people in attendance, Dr. Smith showed a video of what it would be like if people of color were racist to whites, saying things like, “Wow, you barely have an accent,” “You’re very pretty for a white girl,” and “Can I touch your hair?” The point of this video was to showcase what microaggression looks like.
“Strategies for Responding to Racism and Racist Incidents”
The Rev. Dr. Scott Johnson and Linda Hughes also focused on microagressions in their workshop. They discussed that while microagressions may appear to be compliments, that it is, in fact, harmful. They also explained how microagressions can be unconscious and are often delivered by well-meaning people.
In this workshop, Dr. Johnson and Linda also discussed ways to respond to racism. For example, Linda mentioned how a gentleman she respected and looked up to shared a joke with her and the punch line was racist.
“It was the first time I responded to a racist joke,” she said. “What I said wasn’t profound; I simply said, ‘That wasn’t funny.’”
Linda then shared how Paul Kivel, in his book Uprooting Racism, refers to racist jokes as verbal abuse.
“Preaching and Teaching Racism”
The Rev. Beckie Sweet and the Rev. Harold Wheat, both members of CCORR, led a workshop titled “Preaching and Teaching Racism,” which focused on how to practice self-care in such a way that can help one to become better prepared to take the next faithful steps in one’s work to help eliminate racism.
“We provided everyone here with scripture passages they can use back at their churches to begin to help people understand racism,” Rev. Sweet said.
Rev. Wheat emphasized that “it’s really important to invest in quality self-care no matter what type of leadership you are in.”
Rev. Wheat also asked the white people in the room to read the General Commission on Religion and Race’s Code of Ethics (which was supplied as a handout to attendees).
“I encourage all white people in the room to read this Code of Ethics before you do anything to confront racism and the reason is because we grew up with white privilege,” he said. Often times, we are running around like elephants in a china shop, and if we don’t take time to realize the impact our footsteps can have, we can do a heck of a lot of damage without even realizing it.”
“They’re Up Next: Leading our Youth to Imagine No Racism”
Cornerstone District Advocate and CCORR member the Rev. Carrie Wolfe and INR Regional Coordinator and CCORR member Charles Syms presented a workshop “They’re Up Next: Leading our Youth to Imagine No Racism.”
This workshop provided a strategy for youth to grow to not only become racially competent, but also to get to a point where they can actively become a part of the anti-racist movement.
They presented a chart that showed how to transform children into anti-racists. Youth are likely to enter the transformation at different stages of the chart. The stages are as follows:
Racist/Active HostilityàRacial Indifference/InsensitivityàRacial Blindness, “All lives matter”àRacial Diversity/Inclusion, “hosting parties and events that celebrate racial diversityàRacial competence, “skills and attitudes required to develop healthy cross=racial relationships, notice and analyze racial dynamics, and confront racism”àAnti-Racist/Transformation, “An active way of seeing and being in the world in order to transform it.”
“One way that kids can be racially competent is by being an ally to kids from different racial backgrounds,” Charles said.
As far as transformation, Rev. Wolfe mentioned that our children are looking at us as examples, and being an anti-racist can take many different forms from participating in anti-racism marches to writing letters against racism actions/events.
One of the activities in Rev. Wolfe and Charles’ workshop involved placing Post-it notes on one of two trees: one representing social justice and another representing racial injustice.
“Social injustices aren’t less important than racism, but in anti-racism, we need to funnel our focus to look into the different forms of racism,” Rev. Wolfe said.
She passionately expressed that the point of Imagine No Racism is to bring anti-racist efforts from rhetoric to action.
Referring back to the tree analogy, Rev. Wolfe said, “You can’t just prune trees. You have to cut-down the tree to address the roots of racism.”