Anti-Oppression Study Group
for White-Identified Folks in the Work That Reconnects Community
Online study group began February 5, 2017 and met alternate Wednesdays for a total of nine sessions; details below.
Oppressive dynamics are conditioned into all of us and show up everywhere including in Work That Reconnects spaces. It doesn’t feel like work that reconnects if we ignore these dynamics. How can the Work That Reconnects grow to better connect with the pain of oppression? How can we as facilitators or participants stop replicating oppressive dynamics and help create a deeper capacity for connection, a deeper capacity to hold one another safely? One place to start is in study and preparation that increases our own awareness of racism, gendered violence, and other interlocking forms of systemic oppression in society at large, and ways we have been conditioned to normalize or not see these forces at work. This study group is a jumping off point for white-identified folks to deepen in their awareness, not an end.
While this study group will focus considerably on racism, there are many axes of identity and oppression including gender, sexuality, and ability that work together in interlocking ways that will also be touched upon.
This will be a white caucus space, meaning that it is structured for white-identified people, who want to focus on their socialization within whiteness, and the specific work they have to do, in order to work against racism as members of the group that is privileged by it. White identity may or may not include other racial identities, in addition to white, at the discretion of the participant. See below for more information about POC caucusing, and contact information for questions or concerns.
Why is this being held for people who identify as white?
Working in integrated groups has many benefits, and also some drawbacks. One drawback of doing racially focused work in racially integrated groups is that it can put too much burden on people of color to be the teachers and can obscure the responsibility of white people to do the work that is theirs to do. We need both people of color and white people in the work for racial equity, but the work is different because of the differences in experience and location with respect to white culture and white privilege.
It is important for people of color to have spaces of their own* for exploring internalized racist oppression and it is important for white people to explore together internalized superiority, as well as space to build the capacity to act for racial equity. Caucusing is not a substitute for integrated work; it lays the groundwork for integrated spaces to be healthy and affirming.
While the intention for this study group is for white facilitators to grow in their awareness of and sensitivity to race and other oppression dynamics so that workshops are safer for marginalized peoples, this study group is NOT a training for how to better facilitate cross-racial groups. Such an endeavor would require the input of affected peoples.
*If you are a person of color and are interested in this kind of work, please email Aravinda to discuss opportunities.
Dates and Times for Online Sessions
This study group will have an initial online session on Sunday, February 5th from 3-5pm Eastern time. The group will then meet online on the second and fourth Wednesdays in February, March, April and May from 7-8:30pm Eastern time using Zoom online video conferencing. If you do not have a computer with video and audio capacity, it is also possible to call in by phone. In addition to the nine online sessions, a reading curriculum will be offered and a few hours per week should be budgeted for completing reading.
About the Facilitators
Eleanor Hancock will be the lead facilitator. She is the director of White Awake and has developed a curriculum for white people waking up to race consciousness.
Naava Smolash will be a guest facilitator. She is a literature professor with a PhD on Race Theory and the author of “The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture.”
Aravinda Ananda is a mixed race facilitator of the Work That Reconnects and is convening this study group. She feels called to help integrate anti-oppression awareness and approaches more deeply into the Work That Reconnects and has been exploring this for the past year. She will offer some direct applications to the Work That Reconnects during online sessions.
The intended session topics are as follows but may change some as we get into the series based on the progression and needs of the group:
February 5: Why this study group: setting intention/acknowledging goals; anti-oppression 101 – establishing a common base of knowledge and terms
February 8: White Supremacy: historical roots and current day manifestations; class dynamics
February 22: White Fragility: in ourselves and with participants – what it is; practices that can help; “white supremacy culture characteristics”
March 8: Conditioning of White Supremacy: centering of whiteness, the Empathy Gap
March 22: Intersectionality: intersecting identities and systems of privilege and oppression
April 12: The question of land: colonization (past and present); decolonization; native sovereignty
April 26: Accountability in Practice: Receiving feedback from directly affected people and giving feedback to other white people in a receptive way – calling in
May 10: Filling the White Void: Cultural appropriation vs. getting in touch with our own ancestral roots
May 24: Ancestral healing and next steps; healing ourselves as we show up in an accountable way; reflect on the process and discuss next steps
The intention of this study group is to have the spaciousness of meeting over time with opportunity for reading and reflection in between sessions. In addition to the hour and a half for online sessions, participants should reserve a few hours per week for reading/homework. Online sessions will include discussion of the readings, a teaching on the session topic, and as many opportunities for embodied practices and integration as time allows. The intention is to form a learning community together.
Cost and registration
This study group has a suggested cost of $200, but you are invited to pay less if you need to or more if you are able to. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Part of the funds will go to compensate Eleanor for her services and the remainder will go to support BIPOC-led work. (BIPOC stands for Black Indigenous People of Color. )
Please register your name and email through this Google form if you want to be a part of this study group and we will contact you with more details about how to pay and connection information for the first session.