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Talking About Race

Week One of the Dismantling Racism Challenge

August 4, 2020

Welcome to the 30 Day Dismantling Racism Challenge sponsored by the Dismantling Racism group at Catonsville Presbyterian Church (CPC). We are a subcommittee of CPC’s Peace and Justice Committee. Our group formed more than two years ago in response to CPC’s Adult Education discussion of Debbie Irving’s book, “Waking Up White.” After reading the book many members of the congregation recognized that the conversations needed to continue and turn into actions to help dismantle the systems of racism that continue to plague our country. During that time we have tried to raise awareness of issues around racism and sponsored activities such as hosting “Bystander Intervention Training” last year and the current discussion of Ijeoma Oluo’s book, “So You Want to Talk About Race.” Our latest initiative is a 30 day challenge to encourage individuals to take daily, manageable actions to help empower all of us to dismantle racism.

From August 1st to August 30th, we will challenge you to take on one activity per day that will help you to better understand the origins of racism, how it’s perpetuated, and empower you to help dismantle systemic racism in our society.

Each day will focus on one of ten themes of learning and action:

  1. Learn About the History of Race in the US
  2. Learn About Current Issues Around Racial Injustice
  3. Educate yourself on topics around Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Support Minority Owned Businesses
  5. Contribute to Minority Serving Organizations
  6. Advocate for Changes in Government
  7. Seek Out Minority Voices
  8. Share What You’ve Learned
  9. Advocate for changes in your community and workplace
  10. Join Up!

If you’re unable to complete the specific action on the day identified, please feel free to pick another activity and return to skipped activities at another time or even come up with your own action that fits the theme for the day. If you find that you skip a day completely, don’t sweat it and keep it going on another day. These activities will challenge you, but they shouldn’t be impossible! The order in which you complete them isn’t important. Completing all of them isn’t important. What’s important is take on some new action each day of the challenge.

August 1st

Theme: Learn About the History of Race in the US
Challenge: Learn about the origin of the concept of Race and Whiteness.
Details : To understand the origins of racism, we need to understand the origins of “Race.” The idea of “Race” as we use it today is, at best, based on pseudoscience. It’s more of a sociological, political, and legal invention than one truly based on biology. To learn about “Race” select one (or more!) of these activities :

  1. Watch The World Channel series The History of White People in AmericaThis four episode series, available on YouTube, creatively uses music and animation to cover “How America Invented Race,” “How America Outlawed Interracial Marriage,” and “How America Made Skin Color Power.” 
  2. Listen to the PRX program “The Invention of Race”This program is drawn from the much more in-depth 14 part podcast, “ Seeing White ” which explores the history, science, sociology, and the consequences of “whiteness.” “The Invention of Race” program is about one hour long.
  3. Read “This Historical Foundations of Race” from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

August 2nd

Theme: Advocate for Changes in Government
Challenge: Understand Policing in your Local Community
Details : Research how police in your local community are held accountable for their actions and how they are trained to de-escalate situations before they turn violent. Consider taking one of the following actions.

  1. Google whether your local police department currently outfits all on-duty police officers with a body-worn camera and requires that the body-worn camera be turned on immediately when officers respond to a police call. If they don’t, consider writing to your city or town government representative and police chief to advocate for it. The racial make-up of your town doesn’t matter. Review some of the research on the effectiveness of police using body-worn cameras.
  2. Similarly, Google whether your city or town currently employs evidence-based police de-escalation training. Read or listen fo or more information on Police De-Escalation Training.
  3. Research pending bills in your local government that address police reforms that are intended to reduce the risks of violent confrontations such as the Baltimore County bill. If you support the legislation, contact your representative to voice that support.

August 3rd

Theme: Learn About Current Issues Around Racial Injustice
Challenge: What is Systemic Racism?
Details : Before we can dismantle racism, we have to understand what is meant by the phrase Systemic Racism (or Institutional Racism). Explore any of these resources to learn about the origins and complexity of Systemic Racism and what it looks like today.

  1. Watch this video from act.tv describing systemic racism. It does a good job of summarizing how economic disparities perpetuate in our country. The video is 5 minutes long.
  2. Listen to the NPR story, “What Systemic Racism Means And The Way It Harms Communities.” This story audio is 7 minutes long. This story is an interview with Ijeoma Oluo, the author of “So You Want to Talk About Race.”
  3. Read the article “26 simple charts to show friends and family who aren’t convinced racism is still a problem in America”.

August 4th

Theme: Educate yourself on topics around Diversity and Inclusion
Challenge: Explore the Concept of Unconscious (or Implicit) Bias
Details : All of us have biases, many of which are unconscious or implicit. We’re not aware of those biases but they shape how we interact with the world. Understanding how to recognize (and then address) our own unconscious biases as well as those in others is critical to being able to effectively address racism in society. Learn about implicit bias through any of these resources:

  1. Read this brief but illustrative article by CNN News Commentator, Van Jones, about how the media expresses and reinforces unconscious biases in the way they report news stories: “Black People ‘Loot’ Food … White People ‘Find’ Food”.
  2. Listen to this WBUR story, “We Understand Implicit Bias, Now What? A Conversation With Stanford Psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt.” This story audio is 10 minutes long.
  3. Watch the TEDTalk, “What Does My Headscarf Mean to You” by Yassmin Abdel-Magied and “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them” by Verna Myers. Each TEDTalk is less than 20 minutes in length.
  4. Take one of Harvard University’s “Project Implicit” tests to explore where you may have unconscious biases. Tests cover a variety of topics such as age, gender, race, and disability.

August 5th

Theme: Support Minority Owned Businesses
Challenge: Dine at a Black or Minority Owned Restaurant
Details : Everyone has to eat! Restaurants were some of the hardest hit businesses due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Dining at or getting take-out from black or other minority owned restaurants in your area is a great way to support local business and the diversity of dining in the Baltimore/DC region. Take a look at these lists and find a new place to eat or support your favorites. Be sure to check before going to make sure they’re currently open for dining or take-out:

  1. Baltimore Magazine published a list of 50 of some of the more notable establishments.
  2. This list provides listings for over a hundred Black-owned, sorted by cuisine.
  3. This site, called Yureplace, also provides a tempting list of 100 black owned restaurants in the DC and Maryland region. If you have a favorite (or multiple favorites) minority owned restaurant, visit them and share those favorites with your friends or, better yet, post it to the CPC FB page as a comment on this post.

August 6th

Theme: Contribute to Minority Serving Organizations
Challenge: Support Educational Opportunities for Minority Students
Details : College is expensive and with COVID-19 forcing most area schools into virtual learning, the need for additional support for students is even more critical. Consider supporting a minority college or secondary school student in one of these ways:

  1. If there are black children/teens in your life, contribute to their college savings plans.
  2. Consider making a donation to an Historically Black College or University or to the UNCF.
  3. Volunteer to tutor minority students. Research opportunities where you may be able to help. Volunteer Match is a way to search for opportunities for tutors. Building STEPS is also an organization that provides support to college bound students (and recent graduates) from Baltimore City and is looking for volunteers for Junior Seminars, Writing Advisors, SAT Tutoring, Academic Tutoring, Summer Internships, Resume Support & Practice Interviews, and Organizational support (public relation, marketing, development).
  4. Consider supporting CPC’s Backpacks for Success through contribution of school supplies or a financial contribution. Information on that program can be found here:

Backpacks for Success

5. Learn more about the Baltimore County Student Support Network and consider donating or volunteering. The Network partners with school staff to assist qualified students in need to improve their lives and support their education through the provision of food, clothing, educational supplies and other critical items.

August 7th

Theme: Seek Out Minority Voices
Challenge: Explore the Diversity of Your Personal Universe
Details : While we are driven to dismantle racism and serve as allies to individuals and communities of color, it can be very easy to find ourselves living in homogeneous bubbles. That lack of diversity in our lives can make it more difficult to understand the challenges faced by those groups we hope to support and advocate for. It can therefore be useful to make an assessment of the racial diversity of our lives to help us understand the extent of our “bubbles” and motivate us to broaden our universe. The exercise described here is a simple, visual way to explore the diversity in our lives. In this exercise you will answer a series of questions about the people and cultures in your life and place a colored bead in a cup to represent the race of that person in your life. For example, what colors would best represent your two closest friends? If you don’t have colored beads, you could use buttons or use this sheet and use colored pens or crayons if you like. At the end of the exercise, look at the beads in your cup (or your worksheet) and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How diverse is my universe? How has that changed over time?
  • Did you ever stop to think of how often you communicate with people outside of your group?
  • Did you consider yourself to be someone who often interacted with others? Do you still?
  • What did your visual representation show you?
  • If you have little to no exposure to others, do you think you should make an effort to be more involved? If so, how?