Since the start of the new year, there has been this feeling floating out there in the anti-racist work communities that I am a part of, also ones that I just observe. It’s an anticipation that started with whispers and has now built into a loud roar. The cumulative effects of the terrorist attack on the Capitol, the election results, the non-impeachment of the former president, and being in the midst of Black History aka American history month are really starting to show.
I am going to be straight up and say that when George Floyd was killed and there was a flood of White people purchasing books, hiring anti-racist strategists, coaches, and workshop facilitators, enrolling in programs, posting on social media, and pledging allegiance to the cause; there was what I will call suspicious hope.
Even I approached my next steps with my On The Matter of Race – a Six-Month Journey program with both confidence and caution and was surprised by the overwhelming result. I literally went from one group of three committed White journeyers to FIVE groups including one by request filled with folks from the UK. Now, this is a By Invitation Only journey that requires an interview with me to determine if this journey is the right step for you and is limited to no more than 12 per group.
This is no easy journey and I make that clear in that interview and throughout the six months. It requires the willingness and commitment to both taking in and wrestling with hidden history and current events along with stripping away the blinders and the lenses of one’s personal upbringing and life in order to understand and absorb the role and effects of racism in this country. For all of the journeyers, it has meant coming face to face with this idea that being a “good person” is not enough. There actually has to be a huge unlearning, a reckoning with all that you thought you knew about racism and your identity as a White person. Journeyers experience difficult and life-changing moments. I knew all this going in, but wondered would they feel strongly that it is worth it?
Well, session after session (there are 2 a month at 90 minutes each), they showed up and dug in. They did the homework, they made themselves vulnerable to each other and to me in the discussions and they committed to the actions that they said they would take. They are taking the actions of having difficult conversations with family members, friends, and online.
Workshops are being delivered within businesses and community settings. Websites and conferences are being successfully challenged to include POC who are more than qualified to be a part of events and true website representation. Children are being educated and supported in their desire to know more and to speak up and so much more. All of these actions were decided by them before beginning the journey as a requirement of doing the work while we are still on the journey together.
I have pushed myself on these journeys to deliver the best content and conversation, even when it has been excruciating and painful to revisit history and my own experiences in order to teach and share. So much of this is personal as an African American woman living in America raising two Black sons. It was not a journey I thought I wanted to lead, but I answered the call, and it has been worth every step.
“What better way to learn about your own whiteness and bias than with a bunch of other white people who are learning, too, but being led and challenged by a black person?”
“My biggest result from the program is the self-reflection it inspires. I act more thoughtfully when speaking to other white people about racism and white supremacy, and because I am more thoughtful, I am more successful and productive in discussion and action.”
“I see this program as an investment into yourself and everyone you love. With consciousness and awareness of the history and horrors of colonization, I believe that deep growth is possible. When we all do our part to contribute to our own growth by educating ourselves, the human condition improves greatly. There are real, tangible benefits that came come out of this work.”
“I know this type of work may be hard to look at, think about, and even feel. In fact, it might seem like it makes more sense NOT to do this work. But deep down, I suspect that as a white person there is a part of you that knows there are hidden places within you and your legacy that need to be looked at. I know this because I have felt the nagging tug in my consciousness that I wanted to ignore. It is only through taking off our blinders through this type of work that you will be free from the deep uncertainty within you. And with this developing freedom (which is not a comfortable journey, by the way) your vision will be clearer to do good and bring justice into this world for all.”
And so many more reflections like this from people in all five groups have let me know that we are on the right journey together.
And still…. I wondered…
When 2021 arrived and I too noticed the quietness and discussed this with POC and allies, I knew that I had to be prepared for it to hit OTMR as well. I proceeded anyway to create the changes to grow the program and decided to offer it up to 5 levels of beginner work. I issued the invite to the current five groups. Four groups were invited to invest in Level 2 and my current Level 3 group was invited to invest in Level 4. I had no idea what would really happen, but had faith in the journey offered.
Significantly more than half of the people on the journey are up for the challenge and so I will again have five groups including my folks in the UK and I have been asked to add a group to run in a corporate space overseen by two White women who are already on the journey.
I know that the quietness is real in-spite of the fact that there is good work being done by many warriors in this work. I am proud that OTMR will continue and I am happy to start a new Level 1 beginner group because frankly, one more is all that I can take on right now.
This work is so important, please find your place in it.
If you want to come on the next journey with us, sign up right HERE. I am open for interviews.
It is possible to make this kind of systemic change if we look beyond just being good people and make the hard commitment to Do The Work!
It’s important to stay the course. This is long term work that will benefit all of us.
If you are already doing the work, stay committed.
If you fell off, get back up and stay firm to that commitment.
Now is the time to be the change that you want to see.