Mothering Forum banner
1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
During the first exercise, I asked you to look in the mirror and find out who looked back at you. Part of the goal of that exercise was to discover your own thoughts about yourself before looking outwards to other people. This intentional self-reflexive moment sought to push you to confront the racialized person in the mirror (even of you do not consider yourself a member of a particular racial group, society often does). As much as many of us would like to live beyond race (or other markers of difference), our societies tend to have other ideas. Categories of difference are used around the world as a way to separate and segment people into various hierarchical strands. To understand those categories, we have to be prepared not to just look at other people; we also have to be prepared to look at ourselves. What kinds of privileges do you have in a world segmented along lines of difference? How can one positively claim an identity that other people negatively castigate on a daily basis? How can we all learn to live with peace if our hearts are filled with either fear or confusion?

These are tough questions, but we need to take on the tough task of answering them. Part of this weighty responsibility lies in not shying away from uncertainty, confusion, disappointment (especially in ourselves), or contradictions. One of the difficulties of talking about racial categories and the ways these categories have led to (or some would say been led by) racism, is the fact that what we see today is not necessarily the same racial system of yesterday. For example, for a time, in America, people from Ireland, Italy, and Greece were considered people of another race when compared to people born in England. There has been some interesting research examining the ways that various Italian and Irish individuals worked to actually become white in the United States. And people of African descent have, at various times, been known more so in the Americas for what tribe they belong to than the continent that they came from. I could create a similar historical account for various Native American communities, or people from other locations around the world. The point is not to track every single group, but to recognize that difference means different things at different times-even if these differences have often been used for negative purposes.

To understand these differences, and even possibly transcend them, we need to understand the past. We also need to talk about it, to understand how we got here-no matter where here is. To do this, we need to revisit our first exercise. Some responses highlighted the significant role that families have played in peoples' understanding of race. There were even some responses that showcased the difficulty in knowing about this issue when families are silent or perhaps silenced (as when family members are absent from one's life.)

Yet, what we can see is the fact that our connection to our family matters. The people who have touched our lives matter. As a result, looking into a mirror at ourselves actually reflects the images of those whose lives have touched ours. We are not alone.

In order to hear the other voices beside you, I want you to ask questions. Select a family member, friend, or trusted confidante and talk to them about who they see in the mirror, and how society has categorized them. Ask questions. And listen. The goal at this stage is not to confront, blame, ridicule, or embarrass the person you are interviewing. And that may be a difficult stance if you choose to interview someone you know or suspect of having intense views about race. While they may be the best people to interview, the real question is whether you have the emotional (or even physical) strength to withstand it. Although I want to push everyone to enlarge this conversation about race, I also want everyone who chooses to engage in this exercise to feel comfortable and safe. That means that you have to consider who you would like to talk to for this project. If you choose to talk to someone that you have an intense relationship with, you may need to give yourself some strict rules, such as working from a script. Write down a list of key questions modeled on the first exercise. Ask them and pay attention to the responses. Then, rather than reporting the interview in detail, I want you to consider the responses in light of your own. Did anything surprise you? What did you learn about the person that you are interviewing that you never suspected? What did the interview help clarify for you about your own upbringing? What differences or similarities did you find between both of your encounters with race?

Before you start this, I want you to think about what this kind of moment could entail. You do have options. You could conduct this interview face-to-face. You could also talk to your interviewee over the phone, in a letter, or in an e-mail. How you talk to your interviewee depends on how much time you want to set aside for this activity and the comfort level between all parties.

In your reporting back, consider how you would like to talk about this conversation to the board. We have started a conversation based on respect and honesty. Try to keep this perspective even as you engage with others. This is a time to learn. If, though, you feel that you have to respond to your interviewee after the interview, send something privately to them or set up a later meeting. Take time to reflect on what happened, and consider how you want to turn this conversation into a teachable moment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18,669 Posts
Welcome to the second exercise of our workshop. Weather you took part in our first exercise or you've decided to join us now - we're glad your here on this exciting journey!

I was personally overwhelmed by the open and honest responses in the last exercise. I know it was very hard for many of us to really look ourselves and describe what we see. I was also excited to hear from many members who are taking part in the exercise privately. We had close to 100 responses to the first exercise and over 5,000 views!

Amy (georgia) will continue to moderate the workshop with me. She will be approving posts during the week and we will try to complete this exercise by May 27, 2007. Please feel free to come to us with any questions or concerns, we're looking forward to getting to know you all better


Before you begin, please take a moment to read the guidelines (quoted below). You will be aloud only one post per exercise - if you make a mistake after you submit it, let georgia or I know and we'll help you out. Also, in this exercise, you will be asked to interview a family member or friend. Please remember to summarize your answers and not post their words.

Gently,

Jacque

Quote:

Racism: a moment of reflection and healing

MotheringDotCommune is pleased to announce Racism: a moment of reflection and healing, an interactive racism workshop for our members, moderators and administrators.

I'd like to introduce our facilitator, Karen Salt. Karen is a Mothering "Ask the Expert," author, doula, childbirth educator, race and diversity consultant, and scholar focusing on race, slavery, gender, and revolution.

This will be an interactive monthly workshop that will last approximately 6 months. We have organized the workshop by setting up a moderated forum called Racism: a moment of reflection and healing. At this time, only the facilitators and administrators will be able to start threads and all posts will be moderated. Our moderator georgia has generously offered to assist.

Each month we will present an exercise to the community. An opening statement will be made along with an outline of the exercise. We may also record a pod cast to compliment the monthly topic. Karen Salt will summarize and comment at the end of each workshop, then submit the next exercise.

The exercise will remain open to posting for three weeks. Members' posts will be reviewed and approved by the moderator once a week until the exercise is complete.

The posting guidelines will be:
  • Only one post per member, per exercise
    • You may edit your post after it has been approved
    • Additional posts will be deleted without notice
  • Please do not start threads in this forum; they will also be deleted without notice
  • Members' posts must respect our current user agreement
    • The moderator may ask for edits if posts are not in compliance with our current user agreement
  • We will not allow threads/discussions discussing the workshop elsewhere on the boards, as this should be a time of reflection and healing. Side conversations would be counterproductive.
  • Do not quote or discuss members' responses to the workshop within the exercise or elsewhere on the boards. The purpose of the workshop is to look inward and reflect on your personal experience
  • Please do not copy any part of this workshop on MDC or elsewhere on the web
Please see the resources stickie if you would like to do further independent study. These resources are being compiled from member contributions and outside sources. They do not reflect a specific tone on the workshop; they are simply suggestions. If you have a resource you would like added, please email it to Jacque Savageau at [email protected]

We would also like to make a call for action to our members and challenge you to find examples of programs within your own communities committed to making a difference in racism awareness. These would be programs that put a positive spin on combating racism and show how small steps made can make a big difference. Please use this time for positive action and consider making a pledge to live in a world that does not let racism or other power dynamics rule your life.

The workshop is very organic and we're hoping to learn as we go and make adjustments as needed to suit the needs of our community. We're excited to see where it takes us as an online Natural Family Living community and we look forward to getting to know everyone better.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,494 Posts
Unofortunately I no longer speak to my family members, other than my mother. We discuss race and racial issues frequently. We share what we remember about our upbringing. She did not raise me, instead I was raised by my father and stepmother.

Because these are the people that were most influencial in molding my idea of race and racism, I'll comment on what I know them to believe, and what I know they would not admit to anyone. The person I want to focus on is my father, because he was the most obvious in his feelings toward people of different races.

My father never said "******" as far as I can recall. he did however have strong feelings about African Americans. From what I remember these feelings developed because my mother, after their divorce, started dating, and a few of the men she dated were African American. he called my mother various names and forbid me and my sister to ever date a person of color. He wasn't outwardly aggressive toward African American people, but there was always un underlying kowledge that he resented African American men. I know that while in the Navy he did have a fight with a group of African American men, the reason I don't know. His nose was broken I do remember that.

My father was in World War II. He had direct contact with the Japanese and yes he most definitely had issue with the Japanese, if not with the race then definitely with the men he fought against. My father was taken as a POW and tortured. He was a machinist mate, he didn't have knowledge anyone may have been looking for. I know this experience scarred him.

And since my first interview was from a conversation with someone deceased I thought I would add the conversation with my husband.

he is Lumbee Indian. he doesn't identify as such. He considers himself white, because, he looks white. I think it might be eaier for him to do this than defend his whiteness with other Lumbees or Native Americans. He doesn't participate in tribal functions, but doesn't mind that I want that four our daughter. he is passive when it comes to his own racial heritage. It just isn't important to him.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,936 Posts
All in the Family?!
Thanks for this challenging exercise! I wasn't expecting it and I'm really glad we did it.

I decided to ask my sister. We'd never spoken about it much though she looks very different from me. All in all, she didn't feel it was much worth discussing or that she had anything worthwhile to say. Not that she didn't feel her voice was important, but more that because she wasn't interested, she didn't have anything to say at all besides, "Oh, that's nice."

We are so different it's incredible.

"Did anything surprise you?"

I was surprised that she didn't really feel part of any community, racial or otherwise. I mean she said that explicitly, and was kind of taken aback by the questions on group and community.

"What did you learn about the person that you are interviewing that you never suspected?"

She views herself as mainly white with a little brown thrown in. I guess this is because her features are much more European-looking. But I definitely don't see myself as white. And we are sisters! I thought she'd view herself as more of a mix. Though, she does check "other" when giving a race. I think it's because she feels she doesn't fully qualify as white. Whereas, I abhor the question, hate the answers I have to choose from, but don't want the secretary to check one for me when I scribble my anti-categorization message across the bubbles.

"What did the interview help clarify for you about your own upbringing?"

It clarified to me that a lot of what I view in myself is not a result of what my mother taught us, but was gained through experience, and experience I forged myself. Interestingly, my sister also felt that she'd been able to forge her own identity. We owe this to my mother.

"What differences or similarities did you find between both of your encounters with race?"

We both have lived mainly among mostly white people. I think because of this we don't have strong feelings about belonging to a certain ethnic or racial group.

I think what I find interesting is not just that our views of race and politics are different, but that we have effectively made ourselves different races. I'm sure this is possible with a lot of children of mixed descent and I'm interested to hear whether this is the case with any of the other women on here.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,303 Posts
I am writing before I conduct the actual interview to first confirm my spot as well as to force/remind myself to follow through on the excercise. Unfortunately, most of my family has died in previous years so there might be just one person, my aunt, that I can approach with these questions. I actually look very forward to getting into this topic with my aunt. Due to the relatives that I had the most contact with growing up I never identified as a white person (looking back I was always trying desperately to fit in with the white girls and be percieved as a white person-when I look at old photos now it is funny because I still totally stand out!). I will, as soon as I can figure out what the questions should be- maybe someone can make some suggestions- I will email my aunt. Thank you so much for opening up this discussion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,069 Posts
Who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge?

"I'm half black half white, beyond that, I have no idea"... she takes pride in that, likes being half, because "at some point people of two different races conceived two children out of complete love, and in the late 70's it was still extraordinary."

If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself?

She checks the African American box; used to use the term mulato, but found she had to explain the term. Now she just tells people half black half white. She has experienced Hispanics getting angry that she couldn't speak Spanish because they assumed she was Hispanic.

When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience?

She's observed an apologetic, carefulness in white people approaching her about her race... trying to step lightly... this brought up the subject of the white-American cultural guilt; that she has seen that white folks try not to offend. And, people of other races than white will generally come right out and ask "What are you?" She mentioned feeling grated by how blacks won't move on from the past; won't let the whites move on... it's important to remember our history, but it's equally important to move forward, bettering one's self and our society by remembering the lessons that history teaches us, and not directly take that history personally; we didn't live that history... it's ok to recongize where we came from, that that was our people, but we shouldn't use their experience as an excuse to not better our selves, our own lives, and our world.

Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

When asked if there is a difference between how others would describe her culturally once they know what her ethnicity is, and how she describes her own cultural heritage she responded, "I don't think I'm that cliche of black people, which is a horrible thing to say that there is a cliche..." she thinks that people perceive a cliche, and admits that maybe she thinks there is one too... when asked what she thinks that cliche is, she said, "Actually it's not as bad as it used to be, and I can tell you when my opinion changed... I grew up thinking a typical black woman or girl would always have kids trailing after her.... it's like a Southern thing... I saw it a lot of times when I went down there when I was 14-15, a lot of women had a lot of kids, a lot of the time... but it doesn't matter the race, there were just a lot of teen pregnancies... my mom put the fear of god into us about getting pregnant and boys... Looking back in our neighborhood in the 90's gangs were prolific, it didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl, there were just the regular gangs, and I remember 5 girls, 2 black girls (I was one), 1 Hispanic, and 2 white... all the same age, all went to high school together... I assumed the Hispanic girl and the black girls would be more likely to join gangs, get pregnant, drop out of school; but I observed that it was the Hispanic girl and the white girls who did, while the black girls went on to graduate without joining gangs or getting pregnant. It completely blew my idea of that cliche... it's like my cliche was broken. It makes me now as a person... not so judgemental. A cliche is a judgement... "

What kinds of privileges do you have in a world segmented along lines of difference?

"I take almost a strange pride in that I speak clearly and articulately, that I'm educated... my dad has even mentioned it, that we (my sister and I) "speak educated"... I think it's given me an advantage, like in the sense that for example, if I'm on the phone for a job interview, before they see me for the actual interview, when they meet me, it's like a pleasant surprise... I can be their token black person for the company, and when I talk I come across clearly, and people can understand me... and it's sad, it's another cliche, black people talk in slang... it's sad that I have a sense that all black people talk this way... when they don't...Sometimes in that situation, I feel shame."
I asked her to clarify, and she admitted that even while she's feeling that pride, she's also feeling shame. "But only when I'm with my dad's side of the family, down south."

How can one positively claim an identity that other people negatively castigate on a daily basis?

"I think the best thing to do, that I try to do, is when I look at or talk with people, be color blind... Break whatever cliche against race they have..."

How can we all learn to live with peace if our hearts are filled with either fear or confusion?

Living with peace starts with understanding your self, if we can find ourselves spiritually it will make us better people. Cliches and judgement will no longer be as apparent. I think when we're spiritual, it makes us ask what we can do to better our society. We'll never be able to get rid of cliches and judgement, it's just part of the good and evil... we can release our hearts fromfear and confusion by not being afraid to befriend people of different races... don't be afraid to talk to people.

Did anything surprise you? What did you learn about the person that you are interviewing that you never suspected? What did the interview help clarify for you about your own upbringing? What differences or similarities did you find between both of your encounters with race?

I talked with my friend a little about my own perceptions and assumptions, about my attraction to "brown" and my almost "adoration" of other races, an unconscious feeling that brown folks automatically have more culture than I do, and about how striking I found it that she hadn't really had a lot of racially charged experiences. I found that I had assumed that because she is black, she must have a clear and defined perception of her race, her race-experience, and her history... and was surprised to find she hadn't put as much thought into it as I had assumed she would have... That this conversation was really one of the first times she can remember discussing race on a deeper level. This blew my mind, and "broke my cliche"... She recongized that my own experience, as having come from artificial insemination with no clue as to my ethnicity, might color my perceptions, and how, for me anyway, the race conversation from a cultural-back-ground point of view, would be especially fascinating and a challenge for me to understand. We both recognized the cultural differences between, like, the black community and the Hispanic communities, and that with whites, it doesn't seem to be a racial aspect, culturally, but almost always an economic one... the upper echelons of whites don't get pregnant and drop out and such, and if they did, it wasn't publicized...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,030 Posts
OK well it looks like I am the first one to reply...LOL
I chose my mother to interview for this exercise. She has a very diverse outlook on this subject and took her time to think about her answer to me before she replied. It was very interesting to see some comminalities in our answers on race. It to me shows that we have a close relationship and I understand and listen to the views that my mother taught me while I was growing up and still today.
I do want to quote one line from her response because it really made me think,

Quote:
It's interesting how people as a group pick on one subculture and it's usually the most recent immigrants. People quickly forget that their ancestors were most likely the ones being made fun of in recent years, maybe only as far back as one or two generations.
I believe that this is a very good view on racisim and my mother says this in reference to her childhood where she remembers moving from one part of the country(new england) to another(chicago). She explained that being from a french canadian background and hearing the jokes about the immigrants from there was interesting enough cause as kids they didnt realize that they were making fun of themselves, but were just acting by example from the adults. So then after moving to Chicago, where there is a diverse polish and italian culture, it was the same type of racial "jokes" but jsut a different culture.
So I think that having thought about my mothers response, Racisim really does transend through generations. There were people who were discriminated against because they were of a lower ecinomical class before there were immigrants to pick on. As well as people that were viewed as a threat. These people might have been the same race, but they were discriminated against because they didnt fit the "social norm" of their community and time. So I believe that in the past racisim has alway been there just in different forms.
I think after talking with my mother about this I have come to realize that historicaly we have always had some form of racisim, and most likely will have it for some time, but this country has come a long way from slavery to maybe someday in the future having a person of color, or a woman become the leader of the country. That to me is an evolutionary inprovment, but in my eyes I believe that just working with one person at a time to help open their eyes about how damaging racisim can be, then we can slowly open their eyes to new more friendly possibilities.
That is all I can think of for now as to contimplating my mothers response.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,800 Posts
I've tried this with two people - one a friend, the other a friend and neighbor. They are both women of color, with mixed ethnic backgrounds. Neither would seriously answer the questions - both were willing to listen, but had nada to say about it. ??? I think this is important somehow, though. I think it is HARD for women in this area to BE of mixed ethnic background. It makes them feel constantly on guard, always waiting for someone to drop some little comment about how hard that must be, or that they have done WELL for themselves lol. And although those concepts didn't rear during our talk, it still seemed like it was cutting very close to the bone for them to feel comfortable. I will try with my neighbor/friend again.
Any ideas?

Oh - just info - neither of these mamas are MDC mamas, or even on line much at all. They both use email a lot, mostly for work and out of town family, but not much into the net for this kind of thing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,186 Posts
I interviewed dh. He said he sees his dad when he looks in the mirror. Also that he doesn't catogorize himself as a race. His parents treated everyone of all races as equals growing up. He did mention a stigma to being German after the war but never feeling like that was something he was personally responsible for, since it happened before he was born. I asked his parents years ago since they were alive during the haulocost, why didn't they do anything to stop it. They said, honest to God, here in America, they just didn't know it was going on. DH doesn't ever remember being teased as a child about his race. He doesn't ever feel like people look at him and catogorize him.

I was shocked! I mean who doesn't feel catogorized by other people? He doesn't notice people ever catogorizing our kids even though they have a varied racial look and people try to catogorize them all the time when they are with me. I'm Spanish, English, Irish, Lithuanian, and Swedish. I am olived skinned with brown hair and brown eyes. I get confused looks like people are trying to figure my country of origin out all the time. It bother's some so much, they just have to come up and ask. Then looking at my kids sends their curiosity over the edge, even the most tenative just can't seem to help themselves with the questions. If they see both my dh and I together, they marvel at how we can have one spanish looking kid, one blonde haired blue eyed kid, a brown haired girl with green eyes and two very pale white brown haired and brown eyed kids. I have been rudely asked many times if they all have the same Father (they do).

11 years ago, dh's Dad made racial comment about our son. DH said that is just the way his Dad is that he makes comment noting people's flaws (WHAT???) and that's just the way he is. He called our son chico and wan. He kept on and on. My son doesn't like his grandpa at all. I was outraged and asked my husband to make him stop saying those things. My son has this Grandpa's name as his middle name and he has changed his middle name to nothing, he hates the name but I don't know if it has anything to do with the comments or if he just doesn't like the name. He used to wear long pants and shirts in the summer to cover his skin. His sister told him that the darker your skin was, the more of a sinner you were. She said she learned it in Sunday school, but I'm sure they didn't teach her that in Sunday School.

I never felt as much racial flack until our son was born with browner skin than ds or I, though. Before that, I think people looked at me as white. And now I see that some of this is racism i would have got if I wasn't so fair skinned. When my chinese accupunturist can't get over it, I think it just must be because all her family on both sides in china must look very much alike, but lately to everyone else, the quissical racial questions about our families origins are becoming annoying.

My stepfather was a racist. He was named Robert E. Lee after the Confederate General and he pretty much fit the name, he was a racist, hateful, evil person.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
708 Posts
Hey Karen,
Well, my husband's brother married a Liberian woman. It was an experience for us all! You could tell, just from being there, that there were mixed reviews (no pun intended) on the wedding. Because she married a white man, there were significantly less people attending the wedding (as opposed to the weddings between two Africans). Even during the speech her father said he wasn't happy about it! So I talked to her and we had a lot in common. We both considered our stepdads our dads. We both love brothers of the same family. We both breathe air. We've known each other for 6 years now. And still, we know that there is that ... something. There is a stigma in interracial marriage. She feels it from her family and from whites. It sucks. But maybe our, their, family are pioneers. Because, in the end, does it matter? They love each other, and we love them. It's easy to say who cares about the rest. And maybe, in the end, we'll be able to say that.

But right now, it's still a very, very very visible issue with very visible tensions.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top