Adapted from Workshop 12 of the Tapestry of Faith curriculum Building the World We Dream About by Dr. Mark A. Hicks.
Race-based identity groups, or caucuses, provide a chance for people to talk in a structured format with others from their own ethnic/racial group, an opportunity that is rare, even for those who regularly participate in multicultural dialogues. This kind of within-group talk more often than not surfaces a different type of conversation, both in tone and content, than does multicultural dialogue. In racial affinity groups, people who identify as White or of European ancestry are able to ask questions and raise issues without the fear of offending People of Color and people from racially or ethnically marginalized groups. People socialized in racially or ethnically oppressed groups find that they can talk about issues without the burden of rationalizing and proving the validity of their experience to White people.
There may be discomfort among some who believe this sort of exercise is divisive or unnecessarily painful. Some may resist moving into such groups. This may be true (for different reasons) for both White people and people from marginalized racial and ethnic identities. White people, for example, might say, "I want to hear/learn from People of Color." People of Color and from racially or ethnically marginalized groups may have a need to affirm their universal humanity and say, "I prefer not to wear a racial hat." Biracial and multiracial people may find it difficult to "make a choice about which group to join." Other issues and concerns may be voiced.
Acknowledge concerns and explain that the intent of the exercise is to deepen and broaden the perspectives of participants to produce new ways of thinking, because creating a different type of group can create a different kind of conversational outcome.
Emphasize that the purpose of racial identity group dialogues is to support multicultural community. One way this happens is by providing a safe and intentional space for people to "do their homework before a true intercultural encounter can occur." (Eric H. F. Law, in The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1993))
This exercise is intended to further encourage the development of spiritual practices that support the doing of antiracist/multicultural work. Note that all the other workshops have offered conversations across racial lines and that there will be more opportunity for multicultural and multiracial dialogue in future workshops.
When participants divide into racial identity groups, emphasize that the decision about which group to join is up to the individual. Congregations in which there are no racially/ethnically marginalized groups should still participate in this activity. There will be opportunities in later sessions to explore issues related to this particular project. Although there may be a variety of different racial/ethnic identities among those who identify as People of Color and from racially or ethnically marginalized groups, suggest that they form one "racially or ethnically marginalized identity" group. In some cases, participants may choose to form a fourth group for people of a particular ethnic or racial identity.
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Last updated on Thursday, January 19, 2012.
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