Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch Recap: The Mutual Interest in Ending Racism

On August 19th, Discovery Center staff Jason Fredlund and Derek Hall guest-facilitated a Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of "the mutual interest in ending racism." The conversation focused on the ways in which people of all backgrounds can be invested in anti-racism work. To begin the conversation, Jason and Derek defined both racism and mutual interest.

Racism=Prejudice + Power (people of color have never had historical, societal power and therefore cannot be racist)
Mutual Interest=Personal + Shared investment

Both then went over guidelines for the discussion:

-Use “I” statements
-Intent vs. Impact
-Brave space
-Lean In and embrace discomfort, empathy, and connection

After the introduction, Jason and Derek led the group in a facilitated activity:
Close your eyes if you feel comfortable and think back to a time in your life where you’ve experienced pain. When was this experience? Where were you? Who were you with? How did you respond? How might you respond differently? And what kept you going, what kept you moving towards a positive resolution?

These questions provided a foundation for exploring participants' personal investment in working towards ending racism. When engaging in anti-racism work gets difficult or painful, what can keep you going? What does mutual interest look like?

Participants, namely white participants, shared the ways in which racism affects their personal lives and prevents learning, relationships, and understanding. Participants of color shared the ways ins which racism impacts their familial relaitonships. One participant qualified racism as a "distraction" and did not want her child to have to navigate the distractions to success that racism poses. Another mother expressed that racism and police brutality makes her question her children's safety, especially that of her sons.

Derek explained that when he has these conversations with mainly white audiences, participants characterize their investment in anti-racism work as intellectual. Participants for example say, "Racism impairs our ability to get to know one each other or to get to learn from each other." Yet, when he has these conversations with mainly people of color, reasons for involvement in anti-racism work is more emotional and about survival. Derek posed that we need to work to identify emotional reasons, not just intellectual, to be invested in anti-racism work. For example, Jason exclaimed that as a white person he feels as if his humanity cannot be fully realized if the humanity of others is oppressed. It is from this perspective where he then begins his work.

Both Jason and Derek left participants with a challenge to examine their inner circle of friends and family and have conversations about race, privilege, power, and racism. It is in these personal relationships where change can be made.

Were you at the discussion? Have anything to add? What does mutual interest look like? How can both people of color and white people work together to end racism? How does ending racism benefit everyone? Share your thoughts below! 

Join us tomorrow for the final Stowe Salon at Lunch for the summer! In honor of back to school season, we'll be discussing school integration and segregation. Check out these two pieces for background information! Class Notes: What's really at stake when a school closes by Jelani Cobb, and The Problem We All Live With, from This American Life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it is important for white people to understand anti-racism work should be led by people of color. We can be allies and supporters, but we need to listen to people of color and take their lead.