Road to Racial Justice
This winter, participants in the Creativity Club (ages 10-14) are exploring the issue of racial justice. Our goal is to increase our understanding of issues of racism deeply embedded in our society and what we can do to heal. For our white middle schoolers and families, this unit is about getting a glimpse of the meaning of racism and about raising awareness of the layers of privilege that surround them. For our middle schoolers and families of color, it is about developing an understanding of their identities and how those identities impact them in the world. For all, it is a time to move toward finding hope and wholeness in our world.
Our first lesson was about identity.
We considered our own identities, then watched this video from Being 12, People Sometimes Think I’m Supposed to Talk Ghetto, Whatever That Is., in which young people answer the question “who am I?”
We then heard a story about a middle school girl, Marley Dias, who wanted the books she read in school to not always be about white boys and dogs. Marley started a project to gather donations of books for her school library with characters who were black girls, like her. We talked about the importance of representation, and why people need to see themselves as well as a variety of other people reflected in the books they read. (You can learn more about Marley’s story here)
When have you felt or seen someone being treated differently because of what people might think of them before they even know them?
How does it feel (how do you think it feels) to be stereotyped?
Why is it important to read about how people’s identities are similar and different from our own?
The following Sunday, we presented the story of Marley to the younger children at our Lighthouse Chapel worship service. We worked with the children to examine the books in our Lighthouse library, looking to see which groups of people are well-represented in our books, and which are not. We discovered we do not have near as many books with children of color as characters as white children, and that we also lack books with transgender characters, elders, and people with disabilities.
At our second class session, we further explored identity and stereotypes.
We watched the video “The Danger of a Single Story” and discussed the concept of “white privilege”. We began playing the Road to Racial Justice board game. Every situation in the game is based on true events, and illustrate how pervasive white privilege and racism are.
How do you know about your own cultural heritage?
Why do you suppose that black people are referred to as African American, not Nigerian American or Ghanaian American?
What does this show about our culture?
Our third session focused on understanding history–the history of racism in the United States, and the history of Unitarian Universalism.
We are in a time of change. Unitarian Universalists are waking up to important ways to understand race. We used to think that being “colorblind” was a good way to be fair to people of color and we taught it in our Sunday Schools. We didn’t want anyone to be treated differently and believed all people should be treated the same. We still hope that all peoples will someday be treated equally and with respect. But now, we realize that being “colorblind” has kept us from seeing the reality of how people of color were and are being treated. This reality has diminished white people’s lives too.
Now, we are starting to understand that “colorblind,” means that we are locked in a narrow way of thinking only about white culture. It is time to be aware of how people of color are being treated. It is time to “wake up.”
An important understanding for white Unitarian Universalists is called “white privilege.” White privilege is unearned advantages that white people have because of racism. White Unitarian Universalists also have this white privilege, whether we want it or not. For example, white girls don’t have to be worried that “skin colored” makeup won’t match their skin tone because “skin colored” is widely assumed to be for white people. People of color are ignored.
Discussion Questions from this session:
- Are there some things in history that should never be forgotten?
- What have we ignored or forgotten?
- How do you think we should teach history?
Watch this video created by middle school students about the history of slavery in the US: http://www.nevergiveupfilm.org/
Our fourth session was about the importance of listening in developing cross-cultural understanding.
We discussed what it means to be humble, and how important it is to make space for others. White culture has so long defined history, defined normal, and been hurtful to marginalized people, that it is important that white people be humble and listen to the experiences of people of color. Sometimes those experiences will be hard to hear. One of the things which happens is that white people ask people of color to lead them in change, to help them. White folks need to do their own work and not ask people of color to help them. People of color have been burdened by living with racism. They have enough burdens without adding more.
We read this poem as an example of a person of color just having had enough: The Bridge http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/adults/btwwda/workshop16/leader-resource1
Discussion Questions from this session:
- What makes a good listener?
- What kind of things do they do?
- Do you think you are a good listener? Sometimes? Once in a while?
How to handle a racist joke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg1aTLsS69Y&index=13&list=PLrubwoNQcGdT3fOBsyFGouycB4VsL1NT7
Our fifth session was about finding hope.
We can find hope in moving towards an anti-racist society. We can find hope in repairing the causes of suffering. We can find hope in better understanding the problem of racism. We can find hope through taking action.
Discussion Questions from this session;
- What is hope?
- How can we hope for a better future?
As you consider these questions, listen to Solomon Burke singing “None of Us are Free” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFkmRp_G2uo
Check back for more updates about what we are learning, and join us March 18 at noon as we present a workshop highlighting what we’ve learned.