Shayne Hughes

Category Posted in Reframe Reflections

  1. Jenny said:

    I found your entries on the race conference really interesting and helpful, and I can really relate to what you wrote. I think its great that you took the risk to put the issues out there.

    I had a thought about the white guilt issue. It’s interesting that white guilt makes the issue about me, the white person; I think its the opposite of empathy and learning. And I think there’s an additional thing that often goes with white guilt. As you say, white people can affirm their virtue by criticizing themselves–I’m so terrible!” But they sometimes (often?) use this as a way to separate themselves from other whites (at least I know I’m so terrible; you’re oblivious to how terrible you are) in a way that makes them feel superior. White folks are bad, but I’m one of the “good ones.”

    I often hear people involved in intergroup relations, for example, trash talk the people who “don’t get it.” I find it really uncomfortable, partly because I’m afraid they will include me in the “unenlightened” group, and also because if I speak out, then I’m proving I’m in that group. But there is so much judgment in this framework, it seems to create more conflict than it solves.

    Jenny

  2. Shayne said:

    This is helpful, Jenny. What you’re saying really speaks to the morally right/wrong issue that can be at play in race relations, which makes it extremely threatening to talk about it.

    It reminds me how much racism is much about superior/inferior (especially historically in the US); in your example, we see whites continuing to perpetuate this system of judgment, but on each other. The starting point of this is actually non-racial: we tend to spin ourselves as superior to other less (enlightened, intelligent, civilized, developed) people in many realms of our life, and one of the most pernicious separators is race. A painful, painful example of a much bigger system of evaluation, perfection, and one upsmanship.

  3. Charles said:

    In the classes that we do at Michigan on racial dialogues, one of the first things we do, even before the content begins to be discussed, is to “normalize” error and conflict. We suggest that because of our socialization and the complications of the topic, everyone (instructors included, and people of all races) will surely say things that seem to others insensitive or uninformed or otherwise hurtful. We use a set “groundrules” (created by Ruby Beale) about how “errors” will be processed in the dialogue. I’ve attached a copy of the groundrules, in case they are of interest to you. In additiion to these groundrules, we ask the group (before dialogue begins) to make commitments about staying in dialogue even if there is conflict.

    Thus, we much agree with your obsevarations about “honoring mistakes.” I think you’re right on the mark about this, and that steps can be taken in racial discussions to define “mistakes” as both normal and productive.

  4. Charles said:

    Here’s a copy of the groundrules that I mentioned. We distribute these at the beginning of our courses. We ask students to use this as a model to create their own set of groundrules for their upcoming discussions.

    SAMPLE GROUND RULES FOR MULTICULTURAL DISCUSSIONS

    Our former colleague in psychology and business at the University of Michigan, Dr. Ruby Beale (now at Hampton University) has devised the following “MULTICULTURAL GROUND RULES FOR DISCUSSION.” She uses these ground rules to help her classes and workshops discuss issues of diversity and justice.
    Would some ground rules help our own group establish a safe and productive space for our discussions? If so, please consider Dr. Beale’s ground rules as a sample that may help us devise our own proposals for how we will interact with each other.

    1. Our primary commitment is to learn from each other, from course materials and from our work. We acknowledge differences among us in backgrounds, skills, interests, values, scholarly orientations and experience.

    2. We acknowledge that sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination (religion, age, ability, language, education, body size, geographic location etc.) exist and may surface from time to time.

    3. We acknowledge that one of the meanings of sexism, classism, racism is that we have been systematically taught misinformation about our own group and members of devalued groups (this is true for both dominant and dominated group members). The same is true about elitism and other forms of prejudice or bias –we are taught misinformation about others and ourselves.

    4. We will try not to blame people for the misinformation we have learned, but we hold each other responsible for repeating misinformation or offensive behavior after we have learned otherwise.

    5. Victims should not be blamed for their oppression.

    6. We will assume that people are always doing the best they can, both to learn the material and to behave in non-biased and multiculturally productive ways.

    7. We will share information about our groups with other members of the class, and will not demean, devalue, or “put down” people for their experiences or lack of experiences.

    8. We will actively pursue opportunities to learn about our own groups and those of other groups, yet not enter or invade others’ privacy when unwanted.

    9. We each have an obligation to actively combat the myths and stereotypes about our own groups and other groups so that we can break down the walls which prohibit individual development, group progress and cooperation and group gain.

    10. We want to create a safe atmosphere for open discussion. Members of the class may wish to make a comment verbally or in an assignment that they do not want repeated outside the classroom. Therefore, the instructor and participants will agree not to repeat the remarks outside the session that links a person with his/her identity.

    11. We will challenge the idea or the practice, but not the person.

    12. We will speak our discomfort.

  5. Bobbi Owens said:

    This set of ground rules is profound. I can clearly see that everybody in a group has blind spots: Some characteristic of their personality that they don’t know that they don’t know about themselves. This set of behaviors, beliefs, attitudes can drive the group’s reaction and thwart risk taking. I agree and would like to see these rules altered for our manager’s meeting. Even though we (Mini House mangers) have all taken LaL we still resort to the same behavior and progress oftentimes seem slow to me. But then, maybe I’m in judgment and unaware of my own blind spot as well. Bobbi

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