W H Y A W H I T E G R O U P ?
The concept of white people getting together to discuss, examine, and tackle racism isn’t a new one and, although it may seem strange at first to some, there are several reasons for this type of gathering:
Multi-racial conversations can be exhausting for people of color. White folks often enter into conversations about race with less understanding of the big picture than people of color. Many of us have been able to live much of our lives without a deep sense of how race, racism, and power function in America. This is rarely the case with people of color, as they are usually confronted with these issues on a daily basis. Given this, a multi-racial conversation can often be frustrating and even counter-productive until we as white folks have done some work to understand the nature of racism in it’s many forms: personal, institutional, cultural, and systemic. There can often be a feeling that in these settings we are looking to people of color to educate us - which is a problematic dynamic to say the least - especially when in fact there are numerous resources available to all white folks who wish to learn more about racism.
Multi-racial conversations are difficult without a strong anti-racist foundation. It is often difficult for us to fully open up in multi-racial settings until a strong anti-racist foundation has been intentionally cultivated. There are a number of issues that are quite real to our situation and affect us in particular ways, yet we may not have the same sense of urgency as experienced by people of color. This can make it difficult for many of us to navigate multi-racial conversations. It’s important that we create spaces where we can be as open and honest as possible.
White people need to explore and understand white supremacy culture.There are many aspects of living in a society that has been built on racial hierarchies that are particular to white folks. Our experiences are quite different from those of people of color and yet it’s become very clear that no one wins as long as racism is the order of the day. We all pay a price, and it’s very much to our benefit to understand just how we as white people suffer in this system. It is crucial that we’re very clear on the realities of life for people of color, but it can be very tempting to spend all of our time there. In addition to the advantages we receive based solely on skin color, it’s important that we also understand the spiritual brokenness, isolation, crippling individualism, and perfectionism, as well as the strategic racial confusion and silence protocols that are a part of white life and culture here in America. An affinity* group has been found by many to be quite a useful place to explore these issues.
White groups provide an opportunity to experience freedom from shame, guilt and fear. As we dig deeper into the white anti-racist conversation we begin to find amazing relief from this anxiety through the identification we have with one another. There’s a sense of liberation that comes from belonging to a warm and loving community dedicated to both positive racial identity development and societal transformation. As we share openly and honestly, over time we begin to experience a new level of freedom to move forward as part of the solution rather than being bogged down by guilt, shame, and fear. And almost always, when we dedicate time to reflect in these spaces we are able to develop and operate from a grounded anti-racist framework and build the confidence, compassion, and clarity needed to powerfully and effectively practice these principles throughout our lives.