Welcome to the Action Items! These suggestions are meant to help challenge the narrative that so many of us know about racial identity and racism. The optional activities we share each week may help expand your own self-exploration or offer ignored or hidden aspects of the history and institutions of our country that are new to you. So often, the voices, histories, and narratives of white people are centered when talking about history and racism. In the coming weeks, we will share a few examples of news sources, books, podcasts, etc. to help launch your self exploration. We chose these sources to help center the narratives of people of color. Also, we have activities/experiments to learn about racial issues.
Week 1 – History of racism
For white people: Tell 3 (white) people you’re attending the Madison WI Institutes for the Healing of Racism.
Choose one or both of the following:
Find the podcasts by Rev. Alex Gee called Black Like Me. It can be found at his website (https://www.alexgee.com/category/blacklikeme/), through iTunes or using a podcast manager app. Listen to at least one episode and consider continuing to listen to episodes during these 10 weeks. Find another podcast hosted by a person of color that discusses issues of race and racism and share your discovery with the group.
The year 2019 was the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in North America. New York Times Magazine commemorated this event with a special issue called The 1619 Project. In partnership, the Pulitzer Center has developed an associated educational website: https://pulitzercenter.org/builder/lesson/1619-project-reading-guide-quotes-key-terms-and-questions
Read at least one of the articles from the pdf of the special issue.
Journal and reflect on your experience with these action items and with the first session focused on the history of racism and your reaction to the dyad exercise.
Week 2 – Pathology of racism
Reflect on an uncomfortable or harmful racialized incident where you remained silent. Consider sharing this in your next dyad experience.
Week 3 – White fragility & white privilege
Ta’nehisi Coates book Between the World and Me is a letter from a black father to his son about the vulnerabilities he will face in the U.S. because of the color of his skin. If you identify as a person of color, reflect on ways this book voices your own experience. If you identify as white, pay particular attention to chapter II and the passage on p. 98. How engaged are you with the work he identifies as necessary “if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind’? Consider sharing these reflections in your dyad.
The term “white fragility” was coined by Robin DiAngelo. She is a white, anti-racist thinker. Listen to Rev. Alex Gee’s interview with Robin DiAngelo (https://www.alexgee.com/white-womens-tears-and-white-fragility-an-interview-with-ny-times-best-selling-author-and-anti-racism-scholar-dr-robin-diangelo/). Reflect on your own experiences receiving, witnessing, or acting out white fragility. Consider sharing this reflection in your next dyad.
Week 4 – Perpetuation of racism
Watch a fun movie you wouldn’t usually choose featuring people who aren’t like you. Experiencing media representing other identities can disrupt the perpetuation of racism.
Parable of the Polygons (http://ncase.me/polygons/).
Read the instructions and run each of the simulations several times. Play with the slider bars and continue with the simulations.
First step—visit one of the following websites:
- Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/)
- Change the Mascot (http://www.changethemascot.org/)
- “Ending the Era of Harmful “Indian” Mascots” (http://www.ncai.org/proudtobe)
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (https://www.ushmm.org/).
NOTE: some of the images at these sites are violent and can be very disturbing to traumatizing.
Second step—Find an example of a recent social media campaign (in the last couple of months) that successfully challenged or resisted or brought public attention to policies/programs/activities/campaigns that directly targeted the community affected by racism as shown by the website you chose in step 1.
Week 5 – Institutional racism 1
Visit the Equal Justice Institute website (https://eji.org) and/or read Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson. What organizations are working for prison reform in Wisconsin? In Dane County? How do Wisconsin and Dane County compare to national averages in terms of disparities in the justice system for juveniles and adults?
Visit the Mapping Inequality website (https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=3/36.71/-96.93&opacity=0.8). Read the introduction to the website, then look up your current neighborhood in Madison. If you don’t live in Madison, look at neighborhoods of interest to you in Madison. Bonus: look up other cities where you have lived or know people, if available.
Check out these videos of Angela Davis on prison abolition (about 25 minutes combined) Video 1, Video 2. To learn more, check out her book Are Prisons Obsolete? or The New Jim Crow by Michele Alexander.
Week 6 – Institutional racism 2
Research a local topic related to racism that interests you. Bring it to the group and share why it matters to you.
Visit the Race to Equity site (http://racetoequity.net/) or the Justified Anger Coalition site (http://nehemiah.org/justified-anger/). Choose one document to read. Choose one item from that document and research its current status, such as involved organizations and key people, achievements and updates in recent years, volunteer opportunities, etc.
Resources – Some local organizations related to prison abolition:
- Black and Pink Milwaukee (https://www.blackandpink.org/).
- Free the 350 Bail Fund (https://freethe350bailfund.wordpress.com/)
- MOSES Madison (https://mosesmadison.org/)
- There are also two Books to Prisoners program based in Madison, WI: LGBT Books to Prisoners (https://lgbtbookstoprisoners.org/) and Wisconsin Books to Prisoners (https://wisconsinbookstoprisoners.org)
Week 7 – Oneness of humankind
Say hello to at least 3 people, strangers, you wouldn’t usually greet. Prepare yourself ahead of time for being respectful, empathic and for the possibility of being ignored. Attempt to start a conversation, if possible.
Review the chapter ”Fostering the oneness of humankind” in Racial Healing by Reginald Newkirk and Nathan Rutstein (see pdf attachment). What are local examples of community activities that foster a sense of the oneness of humankind and loving our fellow people? Have you participated in any of these activities? Why or why not?
Week 8 – Alliance Building
Go shopping where you are likely to be a racial minority or racially different from customers, employees and owners. Afterward, reflect on your experience: How did it make you feel? Were you surprised by anything?
First step—Visit Learning for Justice (https://www.learningforjustice.org/) or Showing Up for Racial Justice (http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/). What local organizations and initiatives are doing similar work or offer similar resources?
Second step—Find a local program, support group, or organization that offers support for your racial group identity—share it with the group. In what ways would these benefit your needs?
Week 9 – Fear/Action
Develop your own Action Item—a baby step you want to do in the next week. Take the action and share in dyad.
Find one local action to challenge racism and one online resource that you find helpful. Share with the group.
Read Bobbie Harro’s Cycle of Liberation (see pdf attachment). She says, “Once you know something, you can’t not know it anymore, and knowing it eventually translates into action.” Identify any fear/blockage that emerged or was uncovered in the last few weeks. What is the source of past inaction? Consider sharing it in the final dyad.
Week 10 – What Comes Next?
Make a list of Action Items, things to add to your calendar and attend in the coming months. Examples: Attend a community event that is attended by those racially different than yourself; Hmong/Chinese New Year celebration, Dane Dances, a religious function, high school play or sporting event.
Feel free to refer to previous action items for more ideas!
These activities are intended to help you develop tools to move forward doing antiracism work, not instructions for you to follow.