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Guidelines for People of the Global Majority Attending RC Workshops

Barbara Love, the International Liberation Reference Person for African-Heritage People;reprinted from Black Re-emergence No.12

The participation of People of the Global Majority (PGM) in all aspects of RC has continued to blossom and grow. PGM are involved in all aspects of constituency work, are leading at the Area (ARPs), Regional (RRPs) and International (ILRPs) levels, and are leading various dimensions of the liberation work such as family work, large women’s work, men’s work, and so on. Our understanding of internalized racism and its effects on us and on our relationships continues to grow. One place where we have put some attention lately has been on increasing the effect of our participation in RC workshops.

For many years, PGM complained that they spent their time at many RC workshops focusing on discharging on the racism that they encountered at the workshop rather on the focus of the workshop. While many workshop leaders include early morning groups discharging on racism, and most workshop leaders spend some time talking about and working on racism as part of the workshop, the individual acts and experiences of unaware racism kept many PGM from being able to gain full benefit from many workshops.

One strategy in response to this dilemma has been to have workshop leaders spend time meeting with PGM prior to the workshop to discharge and prepare for participation in the workshop. This has been beneficial to those who have participated in those pre-workshop days or evenings. At the same time, it has meant that PGM have to spend extra funds to participate in a pre-workshop to prepare them to withstand the racism that they will face as participants in the workshop.

A second strategy has been to identify some of the specific ways that racism shows up at RC workshops, discharge about those specific manifestations of racism, and develop strategies to interrupt and counteract those specific manifestations of racism.

One benefit of this analysis has been our ability to notice that in every case where we complain and feel bad about the racism that is targeted toward us, we see the evidence of how that racism has been internalized and keeps us from acting powerfully on our own behalf. We developed strategies for acting to interrupt racism directed toward us at RC workshops.

Many of us report using these same strategies to interrupt racism in our wide world communities, in our workplaces, and in our lives. The resulting discharge and re-evaluation has pushed us outside the victim role installed on us by internalized racism. Acting powerfully on our own behalf and on behalf of each other, we have been able to take huge steps outside the internalized racism.

The guidelines for PGM attending workshops have been shared with PGM in many parts of the Community, by word of mouth, e-mail, and other media. PGM who have heard of the guidelines sometimes ask for a copy. They have also been shared with white workshop participants as a way of increasing understanding of the forms unaware racism can take. For example, an ordinary everyday pattern, not attractive when directed at anyone, will most likely be experienced by PGM as racism. PGM will quite likely experience a white person’s pattern as any of the following: thinking that they know best (white superiority) • trying to tell them what to do (white dominance) • assuming that PGM should follow white people (white dominance) • assuming that the PGM doesn’t know what they are doing or how to do a particular thing (white dominance/white superiority) • assuming that the PGM is stupid (white superiority), and so on.

Sometimes having this information can help a white person recognize when their behavior follows such patterns and increase their ability to interrupt their behavior before it has a negative effect on PGM.

SOME GUIDELINES

Own this workshop: This is your workshop. Take up the space.

End marginalization: Be in the front, not at the back. Be at the center, not on the sidelines, not on the margins or the periphery—both physically and all other ways. “Decolonize” the seating at the front of the room. White people generally take the available space. They do not think about what it means for the workshop as a whole or the participation of PGM when all the seats near the front of the room are taken up by white people. They see this as normal and do not experience a white-only space as out of the ordinary or as something to be interrupted.

It will be up to you to make sure that the front of the room is not all white and that all of the PGM are not left at the back of the room or on the margins. If necessary, use tape to mark spaces at the front of the room and on the mats as PGM spaces. When some seats are marked in this way, PGM do not have to scramble at every class meeting to be sure to be in the workshop instead of on the sidelines.

Help white people get accustomed to the idea that it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that PGM are not marginalized at workshops. Some white people might be offended that some seats have been marked as PGM. They might need to discharge on the idea that not all of everything must be available to white people at their choice. You are not required to give them this session. They can seek the attention of another white person to discharge this bit of white domination.

End silence: Break the tendency to go silent. Speak up, open your mouth and let the words come out. Talk. Don’t worry about which words and in what order. Voice, voice, voice! You are smart and intelligent. Resist doubting yourself and your thinking; resist the temptation to think that you are not smart enough.

Strive against thinking that we don’t have anything important to say or that what we say will not be intelligible or smart or what we say doesn’t make sense. What you have to say is as coherent as what the other people will say. Your thinking is smart. Your thinking is significant and matters

You are significant, big, and strong. Be Big. Know your significance. Remember that You matter, your presence matters, and your thinking matters.

Contradict isolation: Stay connected to other PGM. You are not alone. Isolation says, “I am all alone, I am all by myself, it’s just me. I have to do this on my own.” Have buddies. Contradict the messages of isolation by sticking together with at least one or two other PGM. Agree before the workshop or at the beginning of the workshop to be buddies to each other for the duration of the workshop. Separation and isolation are false and wrong messages, lies, imposters. That message is nothing. Discharge it! (Spit on it!)

Reserve some times when PGM will get together as a total group. Reserve some meals when PGM will eat together. Agree on these times in advance and be sure that all PGM know so that they can plan to attend if they choose to do so.

Remember that discouragement is always old: Take the long, big view. Remember the benign reality. There is an upward trend in the Universe. We can discharge anything that gets in our way. If you are feeling discouraged, don’t believe it. Get a session.

Understand that white people will want your attention: They will take over your space and time if permitted. Don’t stay stuck. Extricate yourself from the person that has taken over your space or time.

Part 1: Thank you so much. I must go now. I have an appointment with X—. I have to go upstairs. I have to go.

Part 2: Make an intervention when you see one of us cornered by a white person. Don’t walk on by—stop and offer a way out (rescue).

White people will take over your agenda and insert their agenda on your time and attention. Hold on to your own purpose and your agenda. Remember that “no” is a complete sentence. You are not required to explain to a white person why you do not want to follow their suggestion, have a session with them, have the next mini-session with them, or do what they say to do (different from following the leader). You can say no with or without a smile.

Interrupt “quiz-versations”: Some white people make great efforts to get to know PGM. In their effort to get to know PGM, they will ask a lot of questions. Rather than engaging in a conversation with the PGM, they ask a lot of questions or engage in a “quiz-versation.” This is usually not a good way to get to know PGM. Say to the white person who is quizzing you: “Asking me a lot of questions is not a good way to get to know me.” If you choose, tell the person a good way to get to know you.

Interrupt patterns of “taking care” of white people: For some of us, survival has meant making sure that white people felt okay about us, liked us, did not have any doubts about our allegiance or loyalty to them, and chose us as one of their own. PGM often worry about what white people are thinking, whether they will feel bad if we do not follow their commands or directions (outside of leadership situations), whether they will think that we do not like them. This can show up in the present as “care taking” patterns—making sure that white people are okay, and trying to please white people.

Barbara Love

See Black Re-emergence No. 12 for the last page of this article.

(Present Time 185, October 2016)


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00