Last night we had our last session of our free Anti-Racism Training at BRC. When Brenda first presented the idea to me of creating an anti-racist training, we had a vision that this training would be attended by white people in the community who were at a place in which they wanted to learn more and start to move from just being non-racist, into allyship and anti-racism work. But what ended up happening was not at all what was planned.
Outside of Brenda and myself, no white people attended. Everyone who attended was a person of color. When that first session ended 8-weeks ago, I sat in the office feeling very uncomfortable. This didn't look good, a white person talking about racism to a group of people of color. To be honest, my fear of those optics and how they could be harmful to BRC absolutely made me doubt my abilities as a facilitator, after all, one person who was attending was a Chicanx Studies professor. What could I possibly share/discuss/demonstrate that could be of any value to these people, especially to him? When I discussed this concern with the group, one member jokingly said, “That’s your white guilt talking”, and he was right.
What ended up happening over these last few weeks has been transformative for everyone involved. The amazing people who attended this training did in fact learn things, and so did I. They learned about white privilege, which one attendee explained she didn't understand, and which it turned out two group members identified benefiting from because of their lighter skin color. They learned about Implicit Bias, the concept that social messaging causes us to have perceptions of people and groups, and how those biases paint not only how we see others, but how we see ourselves. In the implicit bias tests, every attendee demonstrated bias favoring white people over people with darker skin, and group members identified colorism in their own families that they hadn’t considered before. They learned the difference between being non-racist and anti-racist, and in that process we talked about family, colorism, white identity, fear of saying the wrong thing when engaging people, not wanting to be inconvenienced by allyship or taking action, prejudice against Black people in this community, white guilt, white saviourism, and the topics go on and on. We all learned through discussion that racism has impacted us in ways that had gone unnoticed.