“Intent vs. Impact: Being an Active Agent for Leading Change”

Dr. Shelly Tochluk, “Intent v. Impact: Being an Active Agent for Leading Change”

  • Dr. Tochluk’s talk will focus on answering three questions:
    • What does it mean to be white?
    • How can developing an awareness of racial identity help us name how society conditions different groups of people to relate to race differently?
    • How can considering historic and continuing systemic racism and racial identity processes help us avoid injuring one another?
  • Different racial identity…
    • “For people of color racial identity development is often mandatory, self-protective, meaningful.
    • For white people racial identity development is often discouraged, unattractive, meaningless.”
    • WHY?
  • People of color and racial identity:
    • Societal messages delivered include: you are part of your racial group (What are you? Where do you come from?), you represent your group…
    • family’s messages generally intended to be protective and supportive
    • the theories of Janet Helms (conformity, dissonance, immersion, integrative awareness, internalization –> a lifelong, nonlinear process)
      • conformity – unaware of group’s sociopolitical history, adopt external standards that devalue own group
      • dissonance – confusion over self-identification
      • immersion/emersion – idealization of own group, devaluing anything White
      • internalization – commitment to one’s own group, capacity to assess and respond objectively…
  • White racial identity – common messages
    • you can expect to be treated as an individual
    • you should be colorblind (paying attention to race is racism, intention: meant to be positive, want racism to be over)
      • “I don’t see race” means…talking seriously about race creates conflict, is outdated or irrelevant; popular culture that plays with racial taboos is funny and harmless
        • leads to lack of awareness of specific kinds of damage, gives unintended messages: e.g. “I’m going to use my place of privilege to refuse and deny the sufferings of those who do not have white privilege while at the same time erasing their personal and cultural history.”
    • resulting conversations: Who am I really defending?
      • confusion & fear out of internal self-reflection: I can understand how that might have happened, if I had been in that situation I might have…
  • The disintegration status…
    • characteristics: recognition that racism exists, recognition of moral dilemma and confusion
    • common messages: U.S. dominance largely due to violence, dehumanization, genocide, and slavery (“I don’t want to be identified with this history; I wasn’t even born yet!”)
      • Now, what do I do with this?
    • swapping race in favor of broad ethnic categories simply changes terms, but mirrors old race distinctions (e.g. “I’m European-American, not white.”)
    • white pride NOT the same as Black pride –> a different history, a different purpose
  • three models of how to be white: racist (reverse racism), guilty white liberal (rejecting white community, acting paternalistically), unconscious (focus on being colorblind)
    • ^ a fundamental problem
  • “Even though I don’t believe in x, y, z stereotypes,” they live within us and come out in unexpected ways.
    • If don’t examine the stereotypes that live within us, ingrained racism remains unrecognized. Inherent racism within images never questioned.
  • “Let’s bypass the guilt and move into racial equity: solidarity and allyship.”
    • develop a white racial identity focused on justice, witnessing, and solidarity:
      • learn how privilege affects my life
      • explore my ethnic roots
        • search for meaningful threads, supportive mythologies, and grounding connections
        • recognize cultural loss (incurred during the assimilation process) and coping mechanisms
      • recognize my multiple social positions
      • study history of multiracial struggle & anti-racism
      • develop a practice around advocating for justice
        • join with others who are investigating issues of race, power, privilege (internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, structural racism)
        • develop a practice: individual lens AND systemic lens
  • A liberated life…
    • Becoming an individual (who can recognize how we are each related to race) increases leadership possibilities…and it feels good
    • attending to both individual and system forms of racism creates a more complete practice and vision
    • knowledge of historic and contemporary racism allows us to avoid injuring people

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