1.2 - Developing our Community - Exploring a Dilemma

1.2 – Developing our Community – Exploring a Dilemma (55 minutes)

Materials needed: Copies of Scenario Response Worksheet (1.2a or 1.2b), pencils or pens.

Purpose of piece: To use a scenario to reveal participants’ thoughts about how various tensions manifest, provide an opportunity to create a common understanding of the issues, and strategize future responses.

Facilitator’s Note: Two scenarios are provided so that you might select the one that is most appropriate for your group. Each has its own handout version. Skilled facilitators who are aware of a particularly relevant issue that the community is facing may want to write out an alternative scenario and use that in place of those printed below. Keep in mind the degree to which it aligns with the specific tensions highlighted in this chapter, and modify the exercise accordingly.

Facilitator’s Note: To prepare for implementation of this section, reflect on the first question yourself and develop possible answers regarding what tensions exist in this scenario that relate to the book content. Share these with the participants as prompts as you begin the exercise.

Say to group: Read this scenario silently to yourself. Then answer the first set of prompts on the worksheet: 1) what are the tensions in this scenario, 2) to what degree do the themes in this scenario play out in communities of which you are a part, 3) how would you feel if you were in this situation, and 4) what would you say in response? (Silent reading/reflection – 10 minutes)

Scenario 1 (handout 1.2a):

A social justice action group recently sponsored a speaker to deliver a presentation to their predominantly white community that included a strong message against colorblindness along within a discussion of racial identity development. The majority of participants readily acknowledged the problems associated with the colorblindness stance after the presentation, but did not agree that replacing it with race consciousness was a good alternative. During a small group conversation in which you were participating, several participants, one after the other, offered comments suggesting that 1) class is a much bigger issue than race, 2) we’re really all just human and need to begin focusing on our similarities to work against injustice, and 3) race is socially constructed and needs to be deconstructed, not strengthened by people identifying as white. Each of these statements seemed intended to distance themselves from taking their racial position seriously.

Scenario 2 (handout 1.2b):

At a local sangha, a predominantly white group meets for a meditation sit. The group mills about the room before the “sit” is to begin. A small group of regulars is chatting, and one of the white women, Sarah, shares about a workshop she recently attended on unconscious bias. She reports feeling convinced that white people need to take responsibility for racism. Another white woman, Gina, responds by saying, “when you focus on race you racialize me, essentially ‘othering’ me, and that does less for the movement than looking at how we’re the same.” A woman of color standing nearby overhears the comment. Sarah responds to Gina, saying she believes all of us need to recognize how race affects us. Gina responds saying, “You’re focusing on the negative, the dark, while I’m focused on the positive, the light. I just love people for who they are.” The woman of color gives Sarah a knowing look, turns, and walks away.

Say to group:  Now that we’ve finished with the silent reflection, let’s get into groups of 4 or 5 to share our responses, each person taking two minutes to share what they wrote down. (Small group sharing – 10 minutes)

Staying in the same small group, discuss the next set of questions on the back side of the worksheet: 5) How would you hope people would respond to this situation, and 6) How could the use of “both/and” thinking inform the response? (Small group discussion – 15 minutes)

Facilitator’s Note: The ability to answer question #6 may be compromised if participants have not read the Introduction and Chapter 1 of Living in the Tension, where the idea of “both/and” thinking is introduced. Exercise 1.5 is designed to more fully explore this skill, so if your group is unlikely to complete reading, you might consider the value of placing exercise 1.5 earlier in your program. 

Facilitator’s Note: Prior to beginning this workshop, try to answer the large group discussion question #3 for yourself. Be prepared to offer an example for the group.

Say to group: Let’s come back together and talk as a whole group about this scenario and what we can take from it. (Large group discussion – 20 minutes)

  1. In what ways do the communities you are a part of deal with the issues raised in this scenario?
  2. How do people tend to respond? Where do we learn these ideas?
  3. How would a “both/and” approach be helpful, and what might that look like?
  4. For faith-based and spiritual communities: Where in the principles, scriptures, philosophy, and/or theology is support for these ways of thinking found?

Wrap up: The purpose of this activity was to use the discussion of this dilemma to learn more about each other and our tendencies so that we can be more prepared to respond to future issues that arise in our community.