Learning About Racism

We all have the power to evolve and become even more effective advocates.

In our work at ProKids to ensure a safe, permanent, and nurturing home for every child, we must think about “home” beyond four walls.  What does it mean to belong? To feel safe? To have your needs met?  To be able to thrive? Racism, discrimination, oppression, and injustice are threats to our children and we must commit to a sustained fight to eliminate them, just as we would with any other risk to the children we serve.

At ProKids, we are compelled to look at ourselves and beyond ourselves. We must learn about the world around us and identify and create solutions.  In this world, we can witness ugly things. Things that make us feel uncomfortable, unsettled, and hurt.

It is clear that it is time to deal with the discomfort and bring them into the light so they can be acknowledged, examined, and changed.  Some of the best, most persistent, learning occurs when we feel uncomfortable. That’s why we have been working at ProKids at the serious work of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for quite some time, pulling together staff, board members and community volunteers to learn and grow as an organization. This work is integrated into what we do at ProKids whether we are recruiting CASA Volunteers, training staff and volunteers, working on cases or collaborating in the child protection system.

We are also working hard to curate ways for all of us to continue to learn and grow as advocates, as citizens and as human beings. You’ll find resources for your continuing journey here, updated regularly.  Please join us as we learn and grow — together.

Week One Theme: Unpacking Whiteness

Feel: George Floyd had an officer’s knee on his neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. Visit 8m46s.com to understand how long that amount of time is. If you feel discomfort, and want to leave the website prior to the timer finishing, reflect on that feeling.

Think: Slavery to Mass Incarceration is a video by the Equal Justice Initiative narrated by Bryan Stevenson. It presents a very quick lesson on the roots and persistence of racial injustice. Talking About Race is a project of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and can help folks understand how white-dominant culture grants advantages to white people and disadvantages people of color.

Do: In 1988, Peggy McIntosh wrote White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. In this brief article, you’ll find a list of examples of how Dr. McIntosh experiences white privilege. Go through the list and see if any of the examples also apply to you. How does your privilege change the way you navigate through the world?

Week Two Theme: The Effects of Dehumanization

Feel: What does “Black Lives Matter” mean? Why does the current advancement movement in America use that declaration to state they are humans worthy of dignity and life? Are we ok with that low of a bar? Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about accepting violence against black communities as normal.

Think: The Black Lives Matter movement works to bring Black citizens back into the moral inclusion of society. In this excerpt from Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness she explains why arguing “All Lives Matter” is a misguided and misinformed attempt. Teaching Tolerance put together a compelling article about the importance of Black Lives Matter. You can find out more about the Black Lives Matter movement on its website and what it stands for.

Do:The Washington Post began tracking every fatal police shooting since 2015. You can explore the data which demonstrates that Black people are killed by police at a rate 2-3x higher than White people.

Week Three Theme: Systemic Racism

Feel: Racism is not simply limited to the justice system. It permeates nearly every structure of the society that we live in. New Hampshire Public Radio interviewed Will Krug and Nick Sanderson about growing up Black in a mostly White town, and their attempts to address bias in their school.

Think: Social systems like education, child welfare, healthcare, etc., were all created for, and exist in, societies permeated by racism, leading to policies and practices that explicitly and covertly share the bias and discrimination we have accepted as common practice. Business Insider published data visualizations in 25 areas to highlight the systemic nature of racism in America. PBS highlighted specifically how racism and bias lead to higher infant and maternal mortality rates among Black families.

Do: One of the many ways that racism has been incorporated into how our society functions is through voting restrictions and regulations. One such method is the literacy test, like this version used in Louisiana. See if you can complete the test in the required 10 minutes. Today, Black citizens still often experience increased difficulty in voting because of systemic policies and practices.

Week Four Theme: Implicit Bias

Feel: The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity researches the effects of implicit bias and produces a yearly report. In this post, it provides an overview of implicit bias and how it affects our interactions with others.

Think: In this blog post, teacher Bill Ferriter reflects on how his own implicit bias may have impacted his students of color. He goes on to explore how he can be more intentional with all of his interactions to create a new normal of fairness.

Do:Every person has implicit bias. Now that we understand its meaning, it is important to identify areas where our implicit bias affects our own interactions. The Implicit Association Test will allow you to identify whether you have a preference for one group over another. Once you take the test, explore how the preference identified can change the way you navigate the world.

Week Five Theme: Conversations About Race

Feel: NPR interviewed Candra Flanagan from the National Museum of African American History and Culture about the new Talking About Race portal. In the interview, Flanagan states that leaning into discomfort is necessary in order to have meaningful conversations.

Think: In order to address race, we must have productive, accountable conversations about how race affects the way people navigate the world. In this video, Robin DiAngelo discusses with Teaching Tolerance why talking about race is difficult for many white people.

Do: Many people want to engage in conversations about race but aren’t sure they have the skills to do so. The Center for Social Inclusion published this toolkit to share tips for engaging in these conversations.