Unpacking Race Fall 2016
Week 5: Because Your Liberation Is Bound Up With Mine

In the Fall of 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. Links:
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."   

—Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian activist and academic

In our final Unpacking Race session we combined all of our theatrical tools to make scenes highlighting instances of oppression that intersected race with education, class, health care, and other social strata. To build these scenes, we worked with a scale of archetypes that play various roles onstage and off:

Oppressed      (Potential) Ally       Bystander       Passive Oppressor        Oppressor
Protagonist   (Deuteragonists, Tritagonists, Tetratagonists, etc.)      Antagonist

In making these scenes, we noted how acts of allyship often shift the the focus of the story away from the person who is oppressed and shine the spotlight on the ally. The work of Theatre of the Oppressed is to make those experiencing oppression the protagonists of the story. Two terms that are helpful in understanding these dynamics in relation to race:
  • White Fragility: A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.
  • Solidarity: Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.
Here are two quotes about solidarity that were critical in the early development of Theatre of the Oppressed:
"Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is in solidarity; it is a radical posture"  —Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
"Solidarity means running the same risks."  —Ernesto "Che" Guevara 
ONGOING ASSIGNMENT: Keep journaling about race. When you write about an instance of race or racism in your life, ask yourself:
  1. What role did I play? Oppressed? Ally? Bystander? Oppressor? Was my role active or passive? Did my role change and who changed it?
  2. For those who identify as people of color: Was I affected by internalized or horizontal racism? How can I empower myrself and others to deal with racism in our lives and take action to end racism?
  3. For those you benefit from white privilege: How did my white privilege play into this situation? How can I move from feelings of guilt and shame about racism to taking responsibility for my role as an agent of racism?
  4. For everyone: What are the costs and benefits of actively confronting racism, and doing anti-racism work?

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