In March 2017 T.O. Philly held its popular workshop series about race and undoing racism. Between sessions we posted videos, articles, radio pieces, and writing prompts for participants. These are archived here, along with a few terms and activities shared in each session:
After defining race and ethnicity in last week's Unpacking Race workshop, we talked about racism and shared the following definitions:
Institutional Racism: A system of advantage based on race and supported by institutional structures, policies and practices that create and sustain advantages for the dominant 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.
Individual Racism: The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate institutional racism. Individual racism can occur at both unconscious and conscious 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.
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.
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.
These terms are from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, (Routledge, 2007).
We posted these four definitions on each side of the room to create an intersectional map of racism, marked with an active-passive X-axis and an individual-institutional Y-axis. We then mapped examples of racism that we'd experienced in the media and our own lives, both currently and historically, by putting our bodies on the grid. Sometimes we walked or stood, other times we sat in chairs, and then used the chairs to add a Z-axis to show visible racism (standing high on the chair) to invisible racism (ducking underneath the chair) and everything in between. The question arose, "For whom is this passive and invisible? And for whom is this visible and active?" We then worked in small groups to create theatrical sculptures and human machines that illustrated these systems of racism.
Longtime activist Judy Vaughn has said, "You don’t think your way into a different way of acting; you act your way into a different way of thinking." This is the spirit of Theatre of the Oppressed, and the spirit of this week's media materials:
1. HEAR Ericka Hart's speech from the Philadelphia Women's March. GO Magazine describes Hart as, "a Black femme, breast cancer survivor and sex educator who spoke about who this march was for and how we can all learn to create more intersectionality in our feminist movements." Be sure to read the first paragraph of the transcript, as it didn't make it onto the audio here.
2. LOOK AT "The Problem with 'Privilege'" by activist scholar Andrea Smith. In this essay, Smith explores "the structuring logics of the politics of privilege. In particular, the logics of privilege rest on an individualized self that relies on the raw material of other beings to constitute itself." Read through the first section, and then journal about it before moving on.
3. READ Michelle Chen's article about race, disability, and public education, published by Al Jazeera. Chen's short editorial intersects these strata with those of age, class, family status, language, access to healthcare, eligibility for employment, and a cycle of disciplinary action that escalates from school suspensions to arrests and prison sentences.
4. GIVE A LISTEN to this first part of the "Who Is This Restaurant For?" radio series, in which journalists Kat Chow and Dan Pashman discuss race, food, and neighborhood socioeconomics with proprietors and customers at three Washington DC restaurants:
5. DRAW AN INTERSECTIONAL MAP in your race journal. When you notice something in your life that relates to race, plot it on the map, and then write about it. You can plot things as they occur and then write a little about each, or choose a few incidents to expand upon more extensively. What does placing a situation on this map reveal? What's left out? What would you add or change to the structure of this map? No matter how you do it or how often, add mapping to your race journal.