Unpacking Race 2013 • Part 5:
Taking Action

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3  Part 4 • Part 5

In our final session of the Unpacking Race workshop serieswe strategize ways to take action against racism in personal, work and community settings by identifying our spheres of influence and how to empower ourselves to take action.  In the workshop, we used the Theatre of the Oppressed technique known as "The Mini Forum," a shortened version of Forum Theatre.

Spheres of Influence:

We identified four general social strata in which we encounter racism.  As "Spheres of Influence" we reenacted situations where we might have the power to interrupt racism:

  1. Self: Educating yourself, understanding your values and feelings, examining how you want to change.
  2. Close Family and Friends: Influencing the people closest to you.
  3. Social, School, and Work Relationships: Friends and acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, people with whom you interact on a regular basis.
  4. Wider Community: People with whom you interact infrequently or in community settings.


Our last batch of readings (for the workshop—keep reading and writing about race outside the workshop!) are about interrupting racism and how to be an ally.  They are:
  1. Breaking the Silence” by Beverly Tatum from White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism.
  2. Guidelines for Being a Strong White Ally” by Paul Kivel
  3. 28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors that Indicate a Detour or Wrong Turn Into White Guilt, Denial or Defensiveness,” by Debra Leigh

Here's a 4-minute excerpt of “Microaggressions In Everyday Life,” narrated by Derald Wing Sue, a video revealing how unconscious biased signals can be perpetuated by well-meaning individuals.  The full video is also viewable online.

Unpacking Race 2013 • Part 4:
White Privilege and Internalized Racism

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3  Part 4 • Part 5

In our fourth session of the Unpacking Race workshop series, we go deeper into concepts of white privilege, internalized racism, collusion, micro-aggression, and also strategies of empowerment, examining how all of these things crop up in our own lives.


This week we've assigned the following essays.  Click on the titles to view:
  1. Crazy Sometimes” by Leonard Pitts Jr. 
  2. Making Systems of Privilege Visible” by Stephanie M. Wildman with Adrienne D. Davis.
  3. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh (video version below).
  4. "Internalized Racism: a Definition" by Donna Bivens.   

Here's an excerpt from A Question of Color, Kathe Sandler's film on internalized racism among African-Americans:

And a video version of "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," Peggy McIntosh's anecdotal essay on white privilege:

Caucus Groups:

In the workshop we broke up into caucus groups for the purpose of discussing our different experiences.  The People of Color Caucus Group discussed the following questions:
  1. What thoughts or feelings do I have about meeting in caucus groups?
  2. How have I been affected by internalized racism and horizontal racism? How do I collude with the system of racism?
  3. How can I empower myself and others in the group to deal with racism in our lives, and to take action to end racism?
  4. What are the costs and benefits of actively confronting racism, and doing anti-racism work?
The White People Caucus Group discussed the following questions:us
  1. What thoughts or feelings do I have about meeting in caucus groups?
  2. How have I benefited from white privilege?
  3. How can I move from feelings of guilt and shame about racism to taking responsibility for my role as an agent of racism?
  4. What are the costs and benefits of becoming an ally to people of color and doing anti-racist work? 
After meeting in these caucus groups, the entire group reunited and reported back on what they'd discussed.

Unpacking Race 2013 • Part 3:
Institutional Racism

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3  Part 4 • Part 5

In our third session of the Unpacking Race workshop series we identify cultural and institutional advantages attached to "Whiteness," and how institutional racism within housing, education, labor, media, and the criminal justice system target people of color.  We also identify the myth of "post-racial institutions."


This week we feature readings about different aspects of institutional racism:
Writing Assignment:

Keep a race journal:  Whenever you notice something in your life that relates to race, write about it.  We learn so much from reading about race and racism, from talking about race and racism, and in these workshops we also create images and theatre about race and racism.  Making time for self-reflection is also very powerful.  When journaling about race, take a look at the following chart.  How does this Cycle of Socialization relate to your own experiences with race and racism throughout your life—this week, last year, growing up and possibly in the future?

Cycle of Socialization, developed by Bobbie Harro

Unpacking Race 2013 • Part 2:
Social Construction of Race

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3  Part 4 • Part 5

Our second session of the Unpacking Race workshop series focuses on the material consequences of racial construction for people of color.  We also explore immigrant experiences of adapting to U.S. racial constructs.

Definitions and Activity:

We played the Vehicle Game (click here to for details) and then used it to illustrate the following terms (borrowed from the Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice curriculum—see week 1):
  1. Institutional Racism: A system of advantage based on race and supported by institutional structures, policies and practices that create and sustain advantages for the domi- nant white group while systematically subordinating members of targeted racial groups. This relative advantage for Whites and subordination for people of color is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms, and values, and the institutional structures and practices of society.
  2. Individual Racism: The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both unconscious and con- scious levels, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of Whites.
  3. Active Racism: Actions that have as their stated or explicit goal the maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism advocate the continued subjugation of members of targeted groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the advantaged group. These goals are often supported by a belief in the inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people, culture, and values.
  4. Passive Racism: Conscious and unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and actions that support the system of racism, racial prejudice, and racial dominance and contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence, discrimination, or an ideology of white supremacy.
After we created moving sculptures to illustrate these forms of racism, we broke up into small groups and talked about the way these different kinds of racism manifest in our own lives, and how we might have the power to change these situations.

Readings and Videos:

This week's readings are drawn from the book White Privilege: Essential Readings from the Other Side of Racism, edited by Paula S. Rothenberg.  Workshops particpants have the option to read one of the following chapters:
  1. Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and Whiteness” by Neil Foley
  2. How Jews Became White Folks” by Karen Brodkin
  3. How White People Became White” by James E. Barrett and David Roediger
We also included the essay "Reflections By An ARAB JEW" by Ella Habiba Shohat.  Click on the titles of any of these essays to access the article online.

We've also included another 6-minute video excerpt from Race the Power of an Illusion: The Story We Tell, plus a 45-minute interview with Juan Gonzalez from DemocracyNow! on how U.S. intervention caused mass Latin American migrations.  The Democracy Now! video is viewable by clicking here, the excerpt from Race the Power of an Illusion can be viewed below: 

The Vehicle Game

We are starting to post rules for games and techniques! If you've used this game, have variations to add, or have questions about how this and other games are played, leave us a comment.

Can you guess what this vehicle is? Let us know.
Guess correctly and we'll send you a poster!
This theatre game works well for building teamwork, working under pressure and developing the language of images. You need a group big enough to split into two or more teams of 5 to 10 people each. You'll also need space for these teams to work simultaneously and separately.

The Basic Game:
Each team uses their bodies to construct the image of a vehicle—that is, a mode of transport that will be recognizable by the members of the other teams. The vehicle must also be able to travel across the space as a moving human sculpture that includes sound effects. Once all the teams have completed this task, one team shows their stationary vehicle. The others make observations and guesses as to what the vehicle is. Then the vehicle moves and makes noise, either confirming the guesses or not. The round ends with the team revealing what their vehicle was, and the next team has a go.

The Next Level:
The first stage of this game gets people to create "Theatre."  This next stage adds "...of the Oppressed." First have a list of different forms of oppression that you want to illustrate.  In a general T.O. workshop, these can be very broad:  sexism, racism, classism, ableism, ageism, heterocentrism—the group may even decide on several topics themselves.  If the group is working on a particular issue, the topics will be more specific and nuanced:  active racism, passive racism, individual racism, institutional racism, etc.  The facilitator quietly assigns each group an oppression to be made into a machine—or "vehicle"—to be shown and performed for the other groups to guess.  Allow more time for each phase of this exercise, especially for when others are looking as the image, prompting discussion about the various forms of oppression and why people see what they see.  Once all of these Vehicles of Oppression have be viewed and guesses have been made, all groups reveal which was which, sit down and discuss what was discovered.

The basic game can be played with any sort of mechanism, be it a household appliance with moving parts (such as a clock or a dishwasher), a ritual performed by a person or people (brushing one's teeth or going to vote), or larger social systems made miniature by the metaphor of theatre (education, commerce, government, patriarchy, childhood, etc.) As with all Theatre of the Oppressed games, the permutations are endless!

Photo above of one team's vehicle image in a workshop at the Muktadhara III Theatre of the Oppressed Festival in West Bengal. Leave us a comment below with your guess as to what they are. Guess correctly and we'll send you a poster!