Becoming an anti-racist practitioner
Carol Campayne of the Diversity Practice and Joy Warmington, CEO of brap, discuss their views on how you can be an effective anti-racist facilitator.
Anti-racism training is in demand. Many organisations have responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by either writing a statement of support or by thinking more critically about their response to racism and what they can do to be anti-racist. This has also been a time for equality practitioners to emerge – individuals who are trying to meet the increasing demand for equality and anti-racist work.
But what does it take to be an effective anti-racist facilitator? How can we meet this agenda for change – especially when we might not have critically assessed our capabilities to respond to work in this area? Is this something anyone can do?
Carol and Joy reflected on these questions as part of a head-to-head discussion - which you can watch in full here...
…but for the busy, here is a summary of their takeaways.
The belief that different races naturally exist and that one ‘race’ is superior to others is the soil in which racism grows. Facilitators who work on this agenda must understand that the opposite is true: race is actually a social construct. Facilitators must nurture practice that deconstructs the very foundations of the belief system that there are different races.
Your identity can cloud how you work on this agenda. Knowing who you are and understanding how racism has impacted on you helps you to be freer about how you facilitate others. If you are white, your identity can give you a kind of ‘rank’ in this work – for example, people will often see you as knowing your stuff and as someone who has been able to disentangle themselves from racist ideology.
Quite simply, anti-racism is a cause, not a job. This might sound judgemental – and it is! It’s important to remember, though, because there will be times in your work where it will be tempting to take the easy option, to tell people what they want to hear, to tell them that they don’t have to change too much. Remembering your purpose keeps you truthful. It will stop you being diverted and seduced by a world that really doesn’t want to dismantle racism all that much.
Self and shadow
Anti-racist work can be gruelling. At times it feels like you are the only one who really knows the truth, or that you’re in a parallel universe where no one can understand you. What you do with those feelings? How do you work on your frustration? We all have triggers – they can show up in us when we least expect it. Notice how you show up. Notice your triggers.
Leading and following
There are times when we should question whether we have given in or given up. Whether we have been too much on the side of the system, too keen to please the client, or unsure of what to suggest or do. These are times when we may have been propping up the status quo – when quick fixes are exactly that: quick fixes that have no longevity. Racism is systemic. It cannot be addressed without thinking about culture /system change.
Because racism is both blunt and sophisticated and people don’t really like change – especially the change that they need to do themselves. Facilitators need to have much better ways of working with others to facilitate opportunities for learning and change.
So, what does all this mean for someone thinking about becoming an anti-racist practitioner? Well, if you want to be liked, then this might not be for you. You will be called upon to speak the truth when people want you to collude with the lie. You will often be lonely. You will sometimes be attacked. You are always exposed.
If you still have the feeling this is something you have to do, then embrace it. But do your work – be sharp, be skilful, and never stop learning. This topic doesn’t need more mediocre people; and passion without skill can be a blunt instrument. Remember to take care of yourself, too. As a facilitator you will be helping people express beliefs that are heart-breaking to hear, see, and feel. To do this work you have to have hope that these beliefs can be changed. Finding space to reinvigorate this hope will keep your purpose alive.