Earlier this month I took part of the Damascus Road Antiracism Training offered at Goshen College. A small group of my classmates and I met up with a group of about 30 people from around the area to start breaking down barriers and learn more about white privilege.
The training was led by three adults from around the country that all have very different backgrounds. The people taking the training were primarily white, and most came from a larger institution. We started off the training on the first evening with an activity to get us "warmed up." Larger sheets of paper with big icebergs were hung on the wall with a range of dates starting at 1472- present. As a group we were asked to write on the inside of the icebergs any instances of racism or oppression and in the surrounding water we write examples of groups or people who were fighting that oppression. For me the activity really helped me gain a better understanding of how ingrained racism and white privilege has been in our society and history.
The training ran for the following two days from 8 am to 6 pm and covered a variety of topics and issues that are important to consider while learning about racism and oppression. First we learned about how racism is deeply rooted in our institutions and that it is a larger systematic problem than most people realize. We discussed white power and privilege and then how racism and antiracism helps shape identity. The following day we talked about how we can claim to have an antiracist identity and then how to heal the institutional racism and the next steps to take. During this training we also had caucuses and intensely discussed case studies.
One of the toughest and most rewarding parts of the training was redefining my identity. I'm proud of my heritage, but what comes with that ownership? The traditions my family share run deep for me and I wasn't sure if I was ready to let go of that identity in order to understand racism better. After having a discussion as a group I had a better idea for the issue I was facing. It's not that I had to separate myself from my "white-skinned culture" to declare myself a sister against racism, but I had to accept the privilege in my life and learn more about how discrimination has affected people of color.
During our first meeting at the Damascus Road Antiracism Training, we introduced ourselves and said how we could see this training benefiting us or the institution we represented. I spoke about becoming an antiracist educator and how I will teach the "future generation" the importance of recognizing racism and putting an end to it, just like I was doing by taking part in this training. Even now in placements for my education courses I see how students of color are affected by institutional racism. Students, no matter the age, pick up on differences in one another and find 'negatives' in those qualities. As an educator I plan on teaching my students through my curriculum to respect and celebrate those differences as well as find pride in their own heritage. Now as an art educator, a discipline where being creative can be very vulnerable, I find this self respect and respect of others incredibly important in the classroom. My goal as a teacher is to have a safe and comfortable place for all students, no matter skin color, intelligence, or background. My new understanding of racism, white privilege and how it affects the educational system will help me be not only a better educator but also a better co-worker. No matter where I work I will demonstrate that same respect I plan on teaching my students to my co-workers and friends. We can't choose our co-workers which mean they may be significantly different than us. Because of Damascus Road Antiracism Training I will also be able to work better with those much different than myself, and not just a difference in skin color but a difference in personality, culture, intelligence, financially, sexuality, and many more. I have a new outlook on people's backgrounds and know that we can't make judgments and that all people deserve out respect and time.