Unpacking Race 2016, Part 2:
Defining and Journaling

In early 2016, T.O. Philly hosted a workshop series on race and undoing racism. Each week we posted material here for folks both in and outside of the workshop to use. Each page archived here contains things to read, watch, hear and do: 
In Week One of our Unpacking Race workshop series, we defined race and ethnicity and shared some of our experiences through movement and discussion. The definitions we used:
Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation or history, ethnic classification, and/or the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Scientists agree that there is no biological or genetic basis for racial categories.

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical location. Members of an ethnic group are often presumed to be culturally or biologically similar, although this is not in fact necessarily the case. Examples of ethnic groups identified in the U.S. are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American; Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese; Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo; Jamaican, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican; Polish, Trinidadian, Irish, and French.

Racial and Ethnic Identity: An individual's awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe themselves based on such factors as genealogical or ancestral heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience. Puerto Ricans, for example, may be racially European, African, indigenous, or various blends, yet they refer to themselves collectively as Boricuas. Despite color differences, Puerto Ricans share a culture which shapes food, language, music and customs.

These are from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, (2nd ed., Routledge, 2007).

We also split up into four groups that will work together over the course of the series. For next week, we have three assignments:
  1. A VIDEO for everyone to watch
  2. WRITING for you to do on your own
  3. LINKS to essays, an illustrated poem, and a documentary
A VIDEO: Aamer Rahman on "Reverse Racism": In this 3-minute clip the Bengali-Australian comedian explains the conditions under which reverse racism is possible and gives a great introduction to major systems of institutional racism. 

WRITING: Maintain your own Race Journal: When you notice something in your life that relates to race, write about it.  While we can learn lots from reading, talking, performing, and engaging in workshops about race and racism, making time for self-reflection is also essential. Your journal could be a daily practice, or a few times a week, or maybe you've always got it with you, ready to jot down your thoughts about race as they occur. No matter how you do it or how often, keep a race journal. 

Also: As part of your journaling, look at the definitions (at the top of this page) for race, ethnicity, and racial/ethnic identity, and then write about your own race, ethnicity, and racial/ethnic identity. We will be tapping into ideas generated by our journaling when we regroup each week.

  1. Read "The History of the Idea of Race...and Why it Matters" by Audrey Smedley, detailing the history of race in the United States.
  2. This history of race in the U.S. is also covered by the documentary, Race: The Power of an IllusionWatch the first part here. Seeing the first part may compel you to watch the rest, so here are links for Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4.
  3. Listen to and see "White Supremacy Loves To Kill", a poem by Dana Rivers set to images.
  4. The essay "Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy" is a primer to the complex systems of how racism can be barriers to organizing  This is a scanned PDF, and this version is better for text-to-speech devices.. 
Next: Passive vs. active, individual vs. institutional.

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