By Nadine Godin-Nassaney
In 2009, Jill McAllister and I scheduled a 6-hour anti-racism training that ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming/Celebrating Equality), a regional partner of Crossroads Antiracism Training and Organizing, delivered at People’s Church. After attending this training I began to understand how I was socialized into whiteness and how the systems and institutions I came into contact with privileged my life. I was sent into a state of disequilibrium. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I lived my life never seeing my race or my advantage in many areas of my life: going to school, living in a neighborhood, using public services, seeking employment, borrowing money and getting help for myself and my children.
At times, I wanted to forget what I had learned because it caused me discomfort to know that I was contributing to the inequities in our society, and I just wanted go back to living my life of hidden privilege. I wanted to avoid the work of monitoring my actions so that I didn’t unintentionally hurt others who are marginalized in our society. I made mistakes as I learned and I was embarrassed by those mistakes. And, I could move to avoidance because I was a member of the dominant group. My life was safe and comfortable.
But soon after I attended the introductory training, I participated in the 2 ½ day “Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism” and the 10-day “Anti-Bias AntiRacism” workshops. Had I topped at the first training, I probably would have let myself slip back into anti-racism work avoidance. My continued and more in-depth exposure to the realities of racism in our culture, however, kept e in the zone of productive disequilibrium. I continue to stay within the threshold of change and my limits of tolerance as I do the work of an anti-racism ally by attending monthly racial identity caucuses at ERACCE, serving on the ERACCE organizing Team and on the ARAOMC Committee at People’s Church. I believe that if well-intentioned white people are exposed to the eality of systemic racism, they too will enter the productive zone of disequilibrium and will join those of us who have started on an anti-racism journey. Please consider attending the February “Introduction to Systemic Racism” workshop and see what disequilibrium it might cause in you.