It has been three months since our last engagement with the White Ally Toolkit, and I’m excited to get back to it!
Soon. But first, on August 9, something a little different.
The White Ally Toolkit helps us prepare for conversations with racism skeptics: people who explicitly question whether racism exists or is a significant problem. While I was on study leave, I was thinking about another kind of conversation: one in which a person says or does something much more subtly problematic. (These are sometimes called microaggressions, though they might not be intentionally aggressive and the effect on the target person is much bigger than “micro.”) Before we get back to the White Ally Toolkit, I’d like to help us with something less dramatic but very impactful: intervening in these situations to help them go in a better direction.
Some examples of these encounters:
- Someone who appears Asian comes to the service whom you’ve never seen there before. The guest speaker that day, Jim, is also Asian. You are chatting with the newcomer when someone comes up and asks them, “Are you here as a friend of Jim’s?”
- An African-American and white person are sharing their thoughts about the service with each other, and after the African-American person finishes speaking, the white person smiles admiringly and says, “You’re so articulate!”
- You’re in a conversation and someone uses a once-common term for an ethnic group. You are pretty sure the members of that group consider it derogatory, but the person didn’t say it with an insulting tone.
- You feel vaguely unsettled as you head home from church, and on reflection, you realize that the reason is that you witnessed one of these interactions and you didn’t respond in the moment. Now you’re not sure what to do, if anything.
It being my study leave time, I wrote a session devoted to developing the skills we need in order to respond. As people who are not being targeted at that moment, we can make a big difference with small actions. One of the best ways to respond the way we want to is to practice, so we’re going to do that together, on Tuesday, August 9, at 7:15 pm. See you there!