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Collective Intelligence from the World Cafe on Race

15037331_967976759974092_8639617360097016452_nIn part two from the World Cafe on Race, which was held in November, we are sharing the collective responses to questions posed at each table. The World Cafe format allowed for structured conversations with one question discussed by participants at each table. After 20 minutes of discussion, participants moved to a new table with different people participating and a different question to start the conversation. A facilitator at each table collected notes from each conversation.

READ: Commitments to Break Down Racism

People who participated in the event were members of All Souls, Tulsans, people from all faiths, ethnicities, cultures, and races. There was even a white couple from Britain who decided to join the conversation during their visit to Tulsa. Including facilitators, more than 100 people participated.

The questions were:

  • What does it mean to be white in America today?
  • What role does unconscious bias and prejudice play in maintaining racism and racial injustice?
  • What can white people do to heal/improve race relations in Tulsa?
  • Would wider knowledge of 1921 Race Riot (Massacre) improve race relations in Tulsa?

To close the World Cafe on Race, after all questions had been discussed, the ideas among the group were shared, and gathered as collective intelligence. Below are those ideas.

They are messy and emotional. They are intentional and some, half complete. They are a small start to the bigger picture. We encourage you to use these ideas as your own conversation starters. To affectively break down racism and structures of systemic racism, we must keep the conversation going.

The questions were determined by facilitators who lead All Souls Rewire groups. Rewire is a racial identity group for white people to unlearn racism. Participants explore racial identity formation and learn how to be effective allies for racial justice. There is a sister group called Mosaic, which is a racial identity group for people of color which equips participants with tools to effectively challenge racism and develop allies across racial lines. Both groups are facilitated throughout the year at All Souls.

Because of Tulsa’s history of having the worse race riot massacre in U.S. history and this forum was held in Tulsa after the unjustified shooting death of Terence Crutcher, two of the questions are around the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Massacre.

White PrivilegeWhat does it mean to be white in America today?

  • Avoid conflict. Avoid emotion.
  • It’s a challenge to find our (white people) emotions, to find our stake in this and to be willing to engage.
  • It’s important to see racism as a personal issue.
  • To recognize that “Black” history IS American history.
  • We can choose whether to be aware or not.
  • Read: Us and Them: A History of Intolerance in America by Jim Carnes, Herbert Tauss, and Harry A. Blackmum.
  • We must work to be aware about “little” things, daily. (Not seeing, or being aware of racial bias when they happen.)

What role does unconscious bias and prejudice play in maintaining racism and racial injustice?

  • Makes a person blind to the reality of racism.
  • Sabotages business and personal relationships.
  • Most dangerous at an institutional level – law enforcement; court of law.
  • Tone policing/ tone trolling is prominent. Meaning: to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone rather than the message.
  • Tone policing requires people of color to stay rational and not show emotion to be heard, when that is not the case for white people.

What can white people do to heal/improve race relations in Tulsa?

  • Speak on behalf of people of color when they’re not present.
  • Teach our children not to be “colorblind,” so they can stand up for their brothers and sisters.
  • Be intentional.
  • Get to know people of color and people who are different than you.
  • Don’t project stereotypes onto people of color.
  • Attend and practice humility at Black Lives Matter and racial justice events.
  • Expand REWIRE into schools and beyond.
  • Take out a full-page ad in support of racial justice in the Tulsa World.
  • Don’t be all intellectual – FEEL IT!!
  • Create a Human Library in Tulsa
  • Do the work.
  • Take Implicit Bias Test.
  • Stick our necks out when we see prejudice.
  • Watch Vernā Myers Ted Talk, How to Overcome Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them.
  • Risk asking questions to friends of color. Risk the relationship to open the conversation.
  • Go into different parts of town and spend your money there. Support local businesses in diverse communities.
  • Invest and commit to improve personal relationships.
  • Do personal work and incorporate the work within your family.
  • Learn the history of Tulsa.
    Verna Myers Ted Talks
    Image courtesy of Ted.com
  • Invest in this work.
  • Don’t hide behind, “I’m not racist, I have black friends.”
  • Make real friendships.
  • SEE COLOR!!
  • Be open to see from a different perspective.
  • Don’t feel sorry for people of color.
  • Listen and understand.
  • Need courage; need hard work; need to be willing to make mistakes.
  • Remove shame from naming biases.
  • Treat others the way we want to be treated.
  • Stay in conversation when it gets emotional.
  • Tell our stories of bias to each other.
1921 Race Riot Massacre
Image courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society

Would wider knowledge of 1921 Race Riot (Massacre) improve race relations in Tulsa?

  • YES!!!
  • Learn local and national history.
  • Handle diversity in classrooms with intention.
  • Talk about “peaks and valleys” for all people, not just share the peaks of one race and the valleys of another.
  • History of immigration and race.
  • Call the Tulsa Race Riot what it is, a massacre.
  • To say YES requires desire for change.
  • How history is taught matters.
  • Push the state to funding for education in general.
  • Go to Greenwood Cultural Center.
  • Lead to reparations = restorative justice.
  • NO, knowledge does not equal compassion.
  • Need to admit the pain that still lingers from the historical trauma.
  • Talk about it.

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