Guest post by the Unlearning Racism Collective
This is a call to action for white people.
As a collective of white-identifying people living in West Yorkshire, we’re writing this in response to the state murder of George Floyd in the US, and in solidarity with the subsequent uprisings by Black activists around the world.
Showing solidarity through social media, and providing much needed donations to relief funds, is important work. It provides visibility to injustice and responds to the needs of the immediate situation. But as white people we cannot stop here. Reacting to injustice when it arises is no stand-in for making anti-racism a daily, life-long practice.
Our solidarity needs to be transformative, and we must do more.
Do you want to do more than simply post and share anti-racist content on social media? Are you unsure where to put your energy or resources? Do you struggle in crucial conversations about racism? Do you feel helpless, disengage, or remain silent when you encounter racism?
As the Unlearning Racism Collective – a white-identified group working with accountability to The Racial Justice Network (RJN), a lived-experience informed and led anti-racist organisation – we focus on unlearning our racism and supporting one another in taking anti-racist action. RJN recently published a host of suggested actions and we encourage you to read their post as an excellent starting point, but if the above questions resonate for you, then we’d like to invite you to join us in engaging in this critical process of unlearning racism.
From late June we will be running introductory two-hour online workshops entitled ‘Unlearning Racism: an introduction’. These interactive workshops will provide an opportunity for white people to work through our discomfort around concepts of everyday and structural racism, and will be facilitated by white trainers acting in accountability to the RJN team, who have directed the content.
What is ‘unlearning’, and why is this work important?
Racism doesn’t just manifest itself in overt acts of police violence – it is a system built on centuries of racial injustice and colonial violence. Generations of white people have benefited from this system, and continue to do so.
Because of this, we need to acknowledge our whiteness and the ways it privileges us and shapes how we see and relate to the world. We also need to move past responses of denial or defensiveness when we are told about our racism or are made to confront the histories of colonial violence.
To undertake anti-racist work, we must develop the ‘racial stamina’ for talking openly and honestly about these issues, and get over our ‘white fragility’ – that fear we have around being seen as racist or a ‘bad person’, or the compulsion we feel to deflect criticisms and deny culpability.
Sitting with and holding difficult emotions with understanding is a first step to equipping ourselves to take responsibility for how we may perpetuate racism, even if we don’t intend to. And by reckoning with our whiteness, we can use our privilege to redistribute and build power through considerate and accountable action.
How do I sign up?
We will be running several instances of our two-hour taster workshops from late June, with a suggested donation scale of £5-45 depending on your income. All donations will go to support RJN in the expansion of their work.
The workshops are interactive and will take place on the Zoom platform. They will require reliable internet, webcam and audio functionality. Use of headphones or headsets is encouraged for improved audio quality.
Registration will open shortly, with initial places being prioritised for residents of Yorkshire, since our aim is to equip trainees for supporting local grassroots anti-racism action. Once local demand has been met, however, we will accept applicants from other parts of the UK.
These workshops are also intended as a step towards attending the full 8-session Unlearning Racism Course, which will be run in an online format in late summer.
After registration we’ll send information on next steps, but if you have any other questions in the meantime, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: This call attracted hundreds of interested people, overwhelming our capacity as a small, unpaid organising group. We have filled the initial workshop spaces with the fastest-responding Yorkshire-based attendees and are looking into options for further meeting demand. Please continue to sign up via the link above for news on future training events.
We’d like to acknowledge the incredible support of The Racial Justice Network trustees and staff, and thank them for giving us this platform and opportunity.