Doing Our Own Work

When I first heard about the anti-racism seminar for white people “Doing Our Own Work” (DOOW), lasting 6 days over a 3 month period, I thought, “what does that even mean?” I had participated in a 2.5 day ERACCE Anti-Racism training and several other seminars that always included white people and People of Color. What would we do for more than 40 hours? Well I found out, and it was a challenging and moving experience.

I tend to think of this anti-racism journey as an eye-opening before and after. Before I participated in the ERACCE seminar in February 2015, I felt that racism was something that other (primarily bad) white people practiced but, certainly not me and not People’s or any UU church.  We were the good guys, showing up for civil rights and justice. After ERACCE, I started to see that we are all involved in the system of racism and oppression. But, while I felt uncomfortable and knew something was there,
I couldn’t figure out what to do until a combination of the 2016 election, the 2017 UUA hiring practices crisis and hearing concerns about People’s Church expressed by a person of color, made me realize that it was my responsibility to be involved in this work. So, I joined ARAOMC, now Dismantling Racism Implementation Team, and that brought me the opportunity to participate in DOOW.

So, what did we do for 40+ hours over 3 months of DOOW? We read, journaled, discussed, watched videos, listened (to each other, to group leaders, to music), participated in structured exercises to help us practice the lessons we were learning. We laughed, cried and cared for ourselves and each other. We were angry and ashamed and moved to compassion and understanding. We practiced skills for interrupting racism in our everyday lives.
A more detailed description of DOOW can be found here: https://www.alliesforchange.org/programs/#DOOW

And what have I found since participating in DOOW?  Many more things that I cannot un-see and more questions than answers. Who am I and who were my ancestors? I have done genealogy work and never ever thought about it in terms of whiteness and our roles in this white dominant culture. How does “whiteness” harm me, my family, our church and everyone else? Because it does harm us all. Can I do this work? Will I mess up? Can I move through all the white supremacy culture traits of perfectionism, individualism, and on and on to change myself? To change institutions, systems? How can I develop accountable relationships with People of Color when all my life and activities are predominantly white? These are hard questions that I am struggling with and it is a worthwhile struggle.

There’s been a little glimmer of hope that I am making progress. About a week after DOOW ended, I participated in an ERACCE workshop for white ISAAC members. During an exercise where we were practicing interrupting racism,
I was able to come up with a response based on what I had learned at DOOW and explain why
I was responding in that way. It wasn’t perfect and I got help from a trainer and it felt good.  And I thought; “Maybe, just maybe I can do this”.

—Jeanne Leadley

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