White Allies at the Muslim Workshop

We were two of four white allies who attended the workshop for Muslims led by Azi Khalili, with assistance from Nazish Riaz [see previous four articles]. The other participants were all People of the Global Majority.


Our journey to the workshop started at COP21 (the 2015 United Nations climate talks in Paris, France). Katrina Wild and I were volunteers with the Sustaining All Life (SAL) delegation. The following year we volunteered again—with the SAL delegation to COP22, in Marrakech, Morocco.

At COP22, Barbara Love, the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People, led a workshop for the delegation on ending racism. She talked about how patterns of white superiority, colonialism, and entitlement have made us white people

  • think we know better;
  • not see People of the Global Majority, both literally and physically, and then appropriate their ideas, after which everyone colludes with racism by saying, “Oh, that’s a good idea”;
  • have difficulty following the leadership of People of the Global Majority (when it feels wrong, we need to have a session—and follow!);
  • make “quiz-versation” (Barbara’s word for asking lots of questions rather than having a conversation); before asking more than three questions, we need to stop, lean back, and let it develop;
  • marginalise People of the Global Majority—take up all the space, stand in the way, dominate the airspace, take over their framework with our framework.

She also reminded us that it’s okay to make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes, we are not doing very much! We can also apologise without clienting. For example, we can ask, “What can I do to make it right?”

At COP22, I had what seemed to me better ideas and I made mistakes, felt terrible, discharged, and apologised. At one point I followed the leadership of a Woman of the Global Majority, although I felt sure that the way we’d worded something was not right. Later she and I got accurate information from an Indigenous RCer—from another Person of the Global Majority, not me. I learnt a lot from that.

In the months after COP22, Iman Awadh, an Iraqi Muslim woman living in London, England, led monthly daylong fundamentals classes in Marrakech, Morocco, for the Moroccans who wanted to learn RC. I supported her and learnt how to follow. I marvelled at the power of RC theory and discharge to overcome restimulation. In a relationship-counselling session I got to apologise to Iman for the devastating bombing and other damage my people had inflicted on her people.

At the Muslim workshop I was the leader of registration. I invited a Moroccan man from the fundamentals class to do the upfront job. He sat visibly at a table in front of the hotel and welcomed participants. I leaned back and let it develop. Other Moroccans joined in and helped with the tasks. Co-Counsellors arrived from the airport, sat down for a leisurely chat, and greeted others. The Muslim participants created a delightfully relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

At one point I caught myself thinking that I should handle the money. I was responsible for it, after all. Unsure of what to do, I sat back and watched. People collected the money and converted it to other currencies. I interacted if needed and went on talking with the people around me. My “thinking” had been just another feeling of superiority and responsibility. I was pleased that I had not acted on it.


It was a great privilege to be involved in this workshop. I appreciated the work that Barbara Love had done with us at COP22 in which she’d spelled out the patterns of white superiority. It had given me many hours of discharge and heightened my awareness of those patterns in such a way that I could (sometimes) actually act different.

In the months leading up to the Muslim workshop, I travelled to Morocco five times to support Iman Awadh in her teaching of the daylong fundamentals classes. My role was to organise the classes, and I learned a great deal. Iman would patiently let me know when my white superiority patterns had taken over and made things hard for her. I could then take that into sessions and work on how much I wanted to intervene and where I was not fully trusting her leadership. The feeling of wanting to intervene came up many times. Ginnie and I got to have many sessions noticing that we were white British women supporting an Iraqi Muslim woman of colour. We could grieve and rage about our British history of colonialisation and imperialism.

We had to figure out how to be allies as we went along. Ginnie suggested that each time we left our hotel room to join the workshop we should take a minute or two to remember that we were white allies and to think about what that meant. Because we would often be in a hurry to join the next section of the workshop, we would often just look at each other, notice our connection, and say “white allies.” Then one of us might say, “Sit at the back,” “Be careful not to dominate conversations,” “Listen,” or “Notice when we think we have a better idea.” It made a huge difference in our being able to remember that we were there as allies, that it was not “our” workshop, and that the white superiority patterns would run [operate] if we were not careful.

We always made sure that we were sitting at the back during classes. We were available and keen to have sessions, but we let the Muslims choose. That felt hard—what if we were left out?

The workshop venue was in the middle of Marrakech next to the main square with all the market stalls, street entertainments, and shops. That provided a perfect opportunity for people at the workshop to spend relaxed time with each other, and we went out several times in groups to wander around. If I was not constantly aware of what I was doing, I would find myself out in front of the group (of People of the Global Majority), not intentionally but in fact leading the way and thereby dictating which direction we went and which shops we entered. I would remind myself to slow down and go to the back of the group, and a few minutes later I would find that it had happened again!

Some of my big patterns were expressed differently in a group that was mostly People of the Global Majority. When I am with a group of white people, I am quiet and shy and often don’t speak much. With mostly People of the Global Majority, I found that I was not so shy. I spoke more and could be very animated. That was confusing. It felt as if I had come out of a chronic pattern, and I loved it! In fact, it had come from white superiority. I had to keep noticing what I was doing—not revert to being quiet and shy but stay aware, listening, and engaged.

A huge thank you to Azi, Nazish, Iman, and Diane Shisk for inviting us.

Ginnie Herbert

Oxford, England

and Katrina Wild

Newcastle upon Tyne, England

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 190, January 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00