Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 7:45 am via Zoom
(NOTE EARLIER STARTING TIME)
MEMBERS ONLY PLEASE!
Creating Your Racial Autobiography
Facilitated by Laura Eberly
The new year is traditionally a time of introspection in cultures across the globe. For our January 2021 members-only meeting, we are offering the opportunity to reflect on the experiences that have shaped our attitudes about race and prejudice, find the common threads in those experiences, and, ideally, foster greater understanding and empathy among ourselves and our neighbors.
Pre-meeting assignment: Please read the attached documents:
Then, write your own racial autobiography, a reflection on your personal experiences, memories, and learnings about race. Instead of writing your entire autobiography, you may write a paragraph or two, such as your earliest personal experience dealing with race or racism, or your most recent experience, or another experience with race that shaped your attitudes. The attached document, “Racial Autobiography Prompts,” is our primary document for the workshop.
We will begin the meeting at 7:45 am. After we conduct Dialogue business, Laura Eberly will start the workshop. We will have opportunities to share the parts of our stories we wish to share, and to hear from others.
We realize that this may be a new experience for most of us, and that the topic may be challenging. Our intention is to do some consciousness-raising regarding racial justice in the relatively safe forum of Wednesday Morning Dialogue.
Laura Eberly is the Founder of Mountaintop Coaching, which helps organizations and individuals deepen their practices of equity and inclusion. From her background as a social worker, Laura has a strengths-based coaching practice and thrives on creating compassionate, honest spaces that foster growth, real relationships, and sustainable change. She holds a BA and MSW from the University of Chicago and a Certificate of Anglican Studies from Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She is a proud alum of Catalyst Project’s Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizing Training.
SUGGESTIONS FROM A TEACHER on writing your own racial autobiography, with a few things she’s learned along the way:
.• Keep it personal. You're writing this not for an audience or publication. You're writing it to document your life experiences that have shaped your attitudes about race
• Take your time. There is no deadline or end point to writing your racial autobiography. In fact, it's a fluid document that will evolve as your understanding does. The idea is not to get it done as much as it is to get it right, as in accurate. I recently reread a section in my racial autobiography about my childhood and realized I'd left out a significant memory. In the summer after church, my family would drive down to Maxwell Street on the south side of Chicago. On weekends the street became a kind of flea market, and we were often the only white people, the vendors predominantly Black people. We could have just as easily gone to the lakefront or a park. If only my parents were around to ask them why they chose Maxwell Street.
• Be honest. Writing your racial autobiography isn't an exercise to fill up time—something Covid has given us plenty of. It's an opportunity to reflect deeply, perhaps for the first time, on how racism plays out in our daily lives. My mother gave me a Black baby doll when I was five years old. I loved that doll more than my favorite stuffed animals. The doll slept in the crook of my arm every night. Looking back, I realized that my love for her was shadowed by sympathy because she was different. Even then, I sensed that difference meant disadvantage, laying the groundwork for whiteness being the norm, the standard for how I saw the world.
• Share what you discover. I know I said a racial autobiography is a personal exploration. But if you feel safe with a person or group, tell them what you learned along the way, the questions that you're wrestling with. The conversations that follow can only help build our capacity for greater understanding—and less racism.
CREATING YOUR OWN RACIAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY Pacific Educational Group
Start with your Racial Autobiography Bookends. What can you recall about the earliest and most
recent events and conversations about race, race relations, and/or racism that may have impacted your
current perspectives and/or experiences.
• Earliest: What was your first personal experience in dealing with race or racism? Describe
• Most Recent: Describe your most recent personal experience in dealing with race or racism.
Describe what happened.
To help you think about the time between your earliest and most recent racial experiences, jot down
notes to answer the questions below. Let the questions guide but not limit your thinking. Note any
other memories or ideas that seem relevant to you. When you have identified some of the landmarks
on your racial journey, start writing your autobiography. Remember that it is a fluid document, one
that you will reflect on and update many times as your racial consciousness evolves.
Are your parents the same race? Same ethnic group? Are your brothers and sisters? What
about your extended family -- uncles, aunts, etc.?
Where did your parents grow up? What exposure did they have to racial groups other than
their own? (Have you ever talked with them about this?)
What ideas did they grow up with regarding race relations? (Do you know? Have you ever
talked with them about this? Why or why not?)
Do you think of yourself as White? As Black? As Asian? As Latino? As American Indian?
Or just as "human?” Do you think of yourself as a member of an ethnic group? What is its
importance to you?
What is the racial makeup of the neighborhood you grew up in?
What was your first awareness of race – that there are different "races" and that you are a
member of a racial group.
What was your first encounter with another race? Describe the situation.
When and where did you first hear the word, “nigger,” or other similar racial slurs?
What messages do you recall getting from your parents about race? From others when you
3. Elementary and Middle School:
What was the racial makeup of your elementary school? Of its teachers?
Think about the curriculum: what Black Americans did you hear about? How did you
celebrate Martin Luther King Day? What about Asian Americans, or Latinos, or American
Cultural influences: TV, advertisements, novels, music, movies, etc. What color God was
presented to you? Angels? Santa Claus? The tooth fairy! Dolls?
What was the racial makeup of organizations you were in? Girl Scouts, soccer team, church,
4. High School and community:
What was the racial makeup of your high school? Of its teachers?
Was there interracial dating? Racial slurs? Any conflict with members of another race?
Have you ever felt or been stigmatized because of your race or ethnic group membership?
What else was important about your high-school years, racially speaking — maybe something
that didn't happen in high school but during that time?
What is the racial makeup of your hometown? Of your metropolitan area? What about your
experiences in summer camp, summer jobs, etc.?
5. Present and Future:
What is the racial makeup of the organization you currently work in? Of your circle(s) of
friends? Does it meet your needs?
Realistically, think about where you want to live (if different from where you are now). What
is its racial makeup? Social class makeup? Where do you want to work in the next 10 years?
What is its racial makeup? Social class makeup?
What's the most important image, encounter, whatever, you've had regarding race? Have you
felt threatened? In the minority? Have you felt privileged?