dismantling white supremacy: White anti-racists monthly check-in group

Below you’ll find notes about the small groups of white antiracists who are checking in with each other once a month. At the bottom of the page is the original description of the idea that includes this line, “What I envision is a simple check in without shame, without authority figures, and without any agenda beyond not dropping the ball in our work of dismantling white supremacy.”

My personal touchstone for these groups is recognizing how white supremacy culture impacts everything I do (see this list of white supremacy culture characteristics) and it is my hope that our check-in groups can be examples of shedding these ways of being.

These notes run chronologically starting from the bottom, moving up. I may take some time to make this easier to navigate, but that can’t be a top priority right now. :-)

Update November 2020

Both groups have met every month since May. Including me in both, one group has four people, one has six. Both sizes work fine. Any larger would likely make it difficult to do this work as time is already a challenge.

We are finding that we all want and need a lot more time to process and share about what we are doing and learning. At this point, we are going to keep to the schedule as it is now, all within an hour: silent worship for 2-5 minutes; introductions/brief summaries of most focused part of our antiracism work; breakout groups checking in about the past month’s work and the coming month’s goals until 15 minutes to the end of the hour; group sharing; 2-5 minutes silent worship and goodbyes.

In these cross-class, cross-gender, multi-age (all adults) groups, the experience of getting to know each other and building trust with each other is part of dismantling white supremacy. We are doing this through sharing vulnerabilities about our experiences trying to incorporate racial justice work in our daily lives. This kind of trust building can happen in ways that don’t help to dismantle white supremacy, but each of us in these groups (I feel pretty comfortable speaking for all of us based on what we’ve shared) recognizes that we are — on purpose — trying to break the patterns of white supremacy culture. (As I mention above, this is my go-to guide for what that culture looks like.)

As I mention below, I’ve started to try to raise funds to hire consultants to provide feedback about these groups. Once we get a loosely-held structure in place that we know is likely doing more good than harm (that ideally is doing a lot of good), I hope to offer to start small groups similar to this in the future for other white people (or for cross-racial groups if that’s an adjustment we decide to make in future groups).

Update August 2020

We are taking turns as facilitator/clerk of the gatherings (a great relief to me as I am a reluctant “leader”). We are not strictly adhering to the format document (not copy-pasting links or agendas into the chat). It’s a more organic, with a flowing feel in both groups. One of the groups has added a “really really quick statement check in” about what our action focus is after silent worship and before smaller groups, so we can all get ideas from each other. These ideas are shared more deeply in the smaller group sharing.

The size of the group seems best at 5-7, though I suspect having one or two more people would work just as well. This allows it to be intimate and for everyone to have a chance to share. Smaller would mean if someone doesn’t show up, it would be hard to have smaller breakout groups.

I will be applying for grant funding so I can hire professional consultants (specializing in organizing, antiracism, structural change, white people’s antiracism work) who are Black or Indigenous, or other people of color. Once I secure those funds, I’ll get their feedback, advice, guidance. I’ll check in with the two existing groups to see what changes they want to implement based on the consultants’ guidance. And/or, I’ll work with another group to start up doing it differently (if the consultants see a need for significant changes). After that, I’ll begin offering to help other white people start up their own check-in groups.

Update July 2020

Two groups met in June to discuss group norms and format. One of the two groups has met for our first check-in (on the 2nd Friday), and the second group meets tomorrow (the 4th Friday). Every one of us seems to feel, or has directly expressed, deep gratitude for the space we’re sharing. We are at many different levels of racial identity development and activism. We all have in common a desire to actively dismantle white supremacy — with actions, not only internal work (though that internal work “counts” as part of that process).

Personally, I’m so grateful these folks have shown up and supported me as I stumble along not quite sure I’m doing the right thing in every step I take.

Introduction: Starting our White anti-racist monthly check-in groups (May 2020)

As a White person, I’m committed to doing what I can to destroy white supremacy. There are so, so, so many ways we White people can be antiracist. We need people on all of the different paths.

I want to be sure I stay actively antiracist. It’s sometimes easy to slip into apathy so I need some external accountability. After researching what options already are out there and not finding what I was looking for, I decided to offer to host a monthly check-in group for White people in my religious community (Portland Friends Meeting (Quakers)) and a few of my other White friends (not Quakers). I thought we could connect once a month and say, “hey, this is what I’ve been working on, this is where I need support or feedback, and this is my plan for the next month.”

White people I know are hungry to know what to do, how to be better and do better as antiracists. I don’t know what your next steps are. I just know that, for me, deadlines other people know about motivate me to get my work done.

What I envision is a simple check in without shame, without authority figures, and without any agenda beyond not dropping the ball in our work of dismantling white supremacy.

We show up. We enter into the space with love, sharing in silent worship for a few minutes. Breaking into small groups, we take turns checking in: what antiracism actions did I take this month, what support/feedback do I need, what do I plan to do this coming month. We reconvene as the larger group (8-10 people) to share highlights from our small group sharing. We close in silent worship.

We can share resources (here’s a link to a form where you can enter resources to share: https://airtable.com/shreUt6bpxIhIPmHy) and learn from each other. Perhaps people will be inspired to learn from each other’s way of being antiracist. I’m sure I will learn a lot.

This is not meant to be a workshop, a training, a place to study and discuss certain texts, or a place for lessons. There are many organizations (Community Change, Inc; SURJ; and so very many more both locally, nationally, and internationally) doing actual organizing work for White people and for multi-racial groups. This is not organizing work. This is to help us individual White people stay on track with our individual racial justice goals so we can be more effective antiracist community members.

With the exception of the week or so leading up to the first group (where we will touch base on group norms and format/logistics questions) once we’re started, it should not take more than 60 minutes of your month. How you use the rest of the month for your antiracism work is up to you.

In these check-in groups, I’m borrowing from my experience in 12 step recovery groups where we don’t have a single leader. This check-in group idea can have shared facilitation among all of us. Ideally, groups of White people working on dismantling white supremacy checking in with each other can happen anywhere beyond the two that are springing up from this initial invitation.

(I am also personally hoping to hire some trained antiracism consultants, ideally Black and Indigenous, to take a look at these ideas and give me guidance about what we are doing. If I meet that goal, you’ll hear about it in my monthly check-in! :-)

At our first group that met on 6/12/20, we decided the size was just right to be able to check in with each other with sufficient time (10 people). The second group will meet on the 4th Friday of each month at 4:30 and, assuming we are looking for a similar group size (8-10 people) there is still space available.

If you would like to participate in another group to be established in the future, please feel free to fill out this interest form! https://airtable.com/shrb0UevT4u8JH77q

Links:

Here is the link to the group norms.

Here is the link to the format.

 

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