Jeanne LeadleyBy Jeanne Leadley

In February of this year I participated in both the one-day and the two-and-a-half-day ERAC/CE training. It was a powerful experience that I am still trying to sort out and apply in my life. Before the training, I felt that I was pretty informed and aware of racism and that I certainly was opposed to racism. I grew up in Detroit during the civil rights movement and always believed that everyone should have equal rights and be able to live, learn, work and play wherever they wished. I felt that     if each individual eliminated prejudice and treated everyone with respect, then racism would disappear.

While participating in the workshops I found that racism is not just individual prejudice but is the result of prejudice combined with misuse of power by systems and institutions. That was a revelation. Another powerful exercise was the Wall of History. As this wall was developed you could truly see the prolonged, systemic, institutionalized racism that is in our society today. The exercises and presentations helped me to become aware   of this with a terrific atmosphere of respect and dignity for all.

In the months since I participated in the training,   I feel that I have been able to identify privilege and racism more than I was prior to the training. I remember watching a TV show right after the training. It was full of stereotypes and privilege, even though it was not overtly racist, and I just watched with completely new eyes. There was so much that I would never have noticed before. I also feel that I would like to learn more, especially what I can do as an individual and as a member of People’s, my larger community and the world. There is so much that needs to change that it is difficult to know how or where to begin.

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