In opening our recent organizing committee meeting, we each wrote a word or phrase that related to the work we do with Racial Justice Allies. “Relationism (instead of individualism.” “Courage (not to be confused with testicles).” “Clarify the Issue before the Action.” “What’s the Point?” “ACTION—it’s OK to be embarrassed.” I take from this we have a desire to act together from a foundation of understanding and constant questioning of motives, goals, and efficacy. Perhaps we serve as a type of “think tank,” providing ourselves opportunity to follow up thoughts toward unexpected confusion or – sometimes – clarity. We’ve set aside five hours a month to be together without distraction, a time for listening, encouraging and talking.
Through selected readings we bring in the voices of folks not in the group, especially voices that challenge us to rethink theories, terms, anything familiar. For instance, what is an ally? Define “privilege.” Even the mandate to “be accountable to communities of color” is up for discussion. What does that really entail? How do we define “community”?
Of course, we’re also doing the work of organizing public events: dialogs, movies plus discussions, community meetings, speakers. And trying to pay attention to ways to support other social justice groups in our area. But its our desire to learn, to challenge ourselves to keep asking questions and looking for answers that keeps us engaged, not only in what we do as Racial Justice Allies, but for our other work in the community, both paid and unpaid.
Does all this time spent on reading, talking, and questioning help dismantle the white supremacist system we live in? We sincerely hope so.
“Nothing handed down from the past could keep race alive if we did not constantly reinvent and re-ritualize it to fit our own terrain. If race lives on today, it can do so only because we continue to create and re-create it in our social life, continue to verify it, and thus continue to need a social vocabulary that will allow us to make sense, not of what our ancestors did then, but of what we ourselves choose to do now.” Racecraft, pg 147
Fields, Karen & Fields, Barbara (2014) Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. New York: Verso