(FinalCall.com) – In Boston, Mass., there are some people who don’t want to gloss over the issue of White racism. There exists a workshop where for just a mere $27, any White person can enroll. The workshop teaches there is such a thing as “White institutional racism” and it’s the responsibility of Whites to change it.
“As soon as they enter the door enrollees are asked the question, in what ways have Whites institutionalized racism, i.e. through trade unions, urban school systems?” said Barbara Beckwith, 70, one of 12 co-facilitators conducting the five sessions. “Some of them look at you sort of funny; and you can tell that maybe they now feel they are in the wrong class, but they don’t leave.
“We want people to look at the institutions they are involved in,” Ms. Beckwith explained. “We want them to ask, why the church is all-White.”
The Cambridge Center for Adult Education offers the White People Challenging Racism workshop, at its small Cambridge, Mass., campus in Harvard Square.
The center is a non-profit, self-supporting institution that gives people the opportunity to explore their interests and nurture their talents and potential, according to its website.
Ms. Beckwith told The Final Call that each enrollee is given a written program of action that explains what they are in the workshop to do. They learn quickly the workshop is about taking personal responsibility for White racism and White privilege, Ms. Beckwith said.
The first exercise is called “speaking up” which starts with the class members openly sharing personal issues with racism. Next comes role playing, learning to become agents for change; and finally they have to devise an action plan to change the culture of an institution where they work, worship or hold membership.
Some people want to argue in the workshop about what Blacks need to do, said Ms. Beckwith. “I stop that talk immediately. I don’t have time for that. We as Whites have our own job to do,” she said.
She recommends that enrollees first read essays by Peggy McIntosh, an anti-racism activist, and author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
Ms. McIntosh wrote, “I have come to see White privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
According to Ms. Beckwith, much of the material used in the workshops is supported through research made possible by the Boston-based Community Change Inc., which works to promote racial justice and equality by challenging systemic racism.
“This is what Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin were talking about–seeing racism as a White man’s issue–and acting on it from that perspective,” said Paul Marcus, Community Change Inc. executive director. Organizations like Community Change Inc. began to pop up in late 1968, some as a response to the Kerner Commission Report, which said there were two Americas, one Black, and one White, he said.
Mr. Marcus said his mentor is Horace Seldon, 85, founder of the organization. Mr. Seldon was moved to start the group after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He explained the organization’s mission in an essay titled “Pluralism and Racism.” “At Community Change we believe that all White ethnic groups have benefited from and contributed to the perpetuation of racism,” he said.
Mr. Marcus says there is a constant battle to challenge the permanence of racism in America. “Most White people do not see the institutional and cultural systems in place to keep racism locked into our way of life, a Matrix of racism, and how it affects people of color,” Mr. Marcus said. “Sometimes it feels like we are just holding back a flood (of racism) that will break through at any time. And, then I get optimistic, because I see subtle changes throughout the country.” The changes he is talking about include high school students openly talking about White privilege in California and groups like the People’s Institute for Survival in New Orleans and the Center for Euro-American Studies in Minnesota, which challenge White supremacy.
Institutional Racism (Wikipedia)