Where’s the Growing Edge?

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Several persistent questions keep us learning and experimenting.

How do we avoid re-traumatizing people of color in this work? Often, people of color in racially mixed learning spaces bear the burden of teaching through telling their own stories. While sometimes liberating, this can also re-open wounds and create resentment at having to prove one’s reality to people who may be reluctant to accept what they have not experienced. And, over time, it can be disheartening to keep extending grace to different people in different spaces for the same mistakes. Racially homogeneous caucuses are one useful antidote. How else can we avoid these dynamics, particularly working in mixed-race settings?

How can we break the tyranny of the urgent? One common error is to attempt to involve people of color in an initiative without making enough time and space for them to influence the framing of the work or the design of the initiative. We need to find ways to help groups see the importance of letting go of unreasonable time pressures to nurture nascent relationships and ensure that voices on the margins move to the center of the work.

How do we stop convincing and create space for genuine breakthroughs to emerge? I have made this mistake many times. While knowing that people rarely change in an instant, I sometimes get hooked, thinking “if I just explain this clearly, or tell one more story, or offer the right bit of data or historical facts, this person will see what I see—right now.” And I can give that person too much space in the group and potentially subject others to injurious ignorance. Knowing that in every group people are at different places in their journey, how can we create space for exploration while keeping the space safe for everyone?

How do we deal with the effects of trauma? When the work is focused on racial healing and reconciliation, the methods and context for dealing with trauma seem clearer because people have signed up for that level of internal and interpersonal work. How can we encourage people to do that level of work in settings where they have gathered more to solve problems and build agreements than to build relationships and repair their own hearts?

How do we design and facilitate in ways that actually transform people and systems, rather than simply tinker around the edges? This is the most important question. We are committed to keep finding ways to bring the best and fullest we have to cultivating personal and systemic transformation of the system of racism.

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