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Crossing Borders I: Building Cross-racial Understanding

General Assembly 2009 Event 4041

Sponsored by the General Assembly (GA) Planning Committee and Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). Speakers: Jorge Zeballos and Rev. Clyde Grubbs.

This is the first part of a special double workshop in which participants explored how to build unity in a multicultural society.

The objective of this first workshop was to help the participants understand racialized cultures and build a commitment to an anti-racial culture.

The workshop began with a viewing of the video True Colors, produced by ABC News with Diane Sawyer. In this video, two well-educated, well-dressed, polite young men, Glen and John, go to St. Louis and visit stores, walk around, look for housing, and try to find a job. The responses they receive are recorded on hidden cameras. These two men are similar in every way except one: John is white and Glen is black.

After viewing the video, the workshop participants were asked to list the differences in the responses John and Glen received, and how we thought John and Glen felt. To summarize, we thought that John felt trusted and accepted, while Glen felt disrespected and marginalized. (The full list of identified feelings for each of the characters is on page 1 of the workshop notes (PDF, 7 pages) generated by and for this pair of workshops.)

To John, this feels normal. For Glen, being marginalized may be familiar but, since he is aware of the different way John is treated, he feels angry.

In most situations, it would not be safe for Glen to show his anger, so he holds it inside—and when anger is repressed it becomes rage.

What would it look like if we had a hidden camera and recorded the experiences of John and Glen as they walked into a Unitarian Universalist church? What subconscious messages might they receive there?

Perhaps we would try too hard to welcome Glen. Despite our best intentions, would he feel welcome? If Glen sees that less than 1% of the congregation is like him and 99% is like John, how safe would he feel? Part II of this workshop explored what we might do to make Glen feel more safe and more welcome.

Reported by Mike McNaughton; edited by Bill Lewis.

Part II >