Dismantling Racism

Aims, objectives, and intended audience

Created as part of the Western States Center’s RACE (Research and Action for Change and Equity) program, the Dismantling Racism resource book contains materials that are intended to supplement a Dismantling Racism workshop.  Dismantling Racism is “intended to increase the breadth and depth of racial justice work in the region through supporting organizations to build a shared analysis of race and racism, to engage in anti-racist organizational development and to move racial justice organizing campaigns” (p. 2 of the Resource Book).  While the resource book specifically references the western U.S., which is the creating organization’s region of focus, the themes and topics are applicable to other locales.  The materials were written with the aim of developing anti-racist leaders, primarily among white Americans.

Broad structure and key educational methods

The Dismantling Racism resource book is divided up into six segments plus an additional section that contains video and reading recommendations.  Given that this resource book is mainly supplemental materials, time allocations are not provided.  Unlike traditional curricula, the resource book is largely comprised of reading material and only occasionally offers questions for reflection or worksheets.  Another unique aspect of this Dismantling Racism publication is the inclusion of a considerable amount of poetry.

Key topics or themes by module

1. The Context of Dismantling Racism Work

This section explores definitions of racism and lays out the approach that Western States Center uses in their Dismantling Racism Project.  The text differentiates between how diversity trainings often define racism (an individual’s personal prejudices / intentional discrimination) compared to a racial justice understanding of racism (“a set of societal, cultural, and institutional beliefs and practices – regardless of intention – that subordinate and oppress one race for the benefit of another,” in addition to the beliefs and acts of individuals) (page 6 of the Dismantling Racism Resource Book).  Other brief discussions included in this section address multiculturalism, who’s controlling the power, representation and tokenism, and a call to move towards progressive social change

2. Developing a Shared Language and Analysis

Following a poem, this section is comprised of three relatively lengthy documents. The first is a Western States Center document that provides a history of race and racism. After differentiating between race, ethnicity, and nationality, the text examines the historical constructs and social science/pseudo-science that has been used throughout history to “justify” differential treatment by race. It also addresses manifest destiny and whiteness. The second major document in this section examines the common elements of oppression, such as institutional power, stereotyping, blaming the victim, and tokenism, among others. The third significant component of this section includes visuals and covers the cycle of racist oppression, the four faces of racism (constructed oppression, internalized oppression, granted white privilege, and internalized white supremacy), and the three expressions of racism (personal, cultural, and institutional).

3. From Internalized Racist Oppression to Empowerment

After briefly detailing internalized racist oppression through examples and poems by Martín Espada, this section of materials turn towards empowerment. Empowerment is illustrated as a seven rung ladder that is ascended though resistance, awareness, and education. Ladder rungs begin at the bottom when a person of color recognizes that s/he is not white. Subsequent stages in the ascent of this ladder include addressing rage/depression, developing a deeper self-awareness of culture and history, and moving toward collective action.

4. From Internalized White Supremacy to Anti-Racist White Ally

In the course of several short documents, this section provides examples of ways in which white people resist acknowledging racism and distance themselves from dealing with racism. The material then transitions to exploring the characteristics of white allies, notably attitudes, behaviors, and ways in which prospective white allies can move from concern to taking action against racism.

5. Anti-Racist Organizational Development

Given that anti-racist organizational transformation is a process, this section opens by acknowledging that different organizations are in different stages of this work. The text contains tools to help organizations start discussions about this transformation. The first tool helps organizations evaluate where they are at with respect to their organization’s anti-racist vision. A four stage process is carefully laid out, and participants are asked to identify their organization’s location along this continuum. Additional questions prompt participants to discuss the ways in which their organizations replicate larger racist patterns. Subsequent tools help participants develop Change Teams to lead anti-racist organizational development and Caucuses to address affinity group concerns.

6. Moving Racial Justice Organizing

The culminating section examines what racial justice organizing looks like on the ground. In addition to providing numerous real-life examples, the text helps participants assess their organization’s readiness and capacity to pursue a racial justice agenda. Framing issues related to racial justice organizing are also addressed. The section concludes by providing guidance on building cross-racial alliances and how to hold elected or community leaders of color accountable through racial justice organizing.

Curriculum acquisition information

  • Dismantling Racism (.pdf)

This curriculum is also available as a free download from the Western States Center here.

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