2.2 - Developing our Community - Exploring a Dilemma

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

Materials needed: Copies of Scenario Response Worksheet (2.2a or 2.2b), pencils or pens.

Purpose of piece: To use a scenario to reveal participants’ thoughts about how various tensions manifest. To 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 is privilege and/or racism manifesting, 4) how would you feel if you were in this situation, and 5) what would you say in response? (Silent reading/reflection – 10 minutes)

Scenario 1 (Handout 2.2a):

A group of community members are discussing whether to use the term white supremacy more explicitly when talking about racism and racial justice efforts. Some members have voiced their discomfort to the leadership about the language. They believe it is too extreme (conjuring horrible images of the KKK). They also believe it implies a sense of judgment and makes white people feel bad about being white. They said they support racial equity initiatives, but they feel really uncomfortable with this use of language. They question if there is room for their perspective in the dialogue. There are others in the group who express their desire to be accountable to people of color in the community who have said that using the term white supremacy is important.

Scenario 2 (Handout 2.2b):

A pair of white middle school teachers recognize that many of their students of color have experienced trauma. As a response, they have students repeat a mantra for 30 seconds each day, which states, “I am perfect and whole, just as I am.” At a faculty meeting, the two teachers talk about this practice, adding how important it is that they offer this positive view since the students receive negative messages from their families about how society is biased against them. They also lament how the negative attitude swirling around the students stops them from feeling free to ask questions, challenge authority, take risks, etc. They also share how useful the mantra has been in their own lives, how it has helped them to push against barriers and ignore unfair criticism. After the meeting, a teacher of color challenges them, saying it’s important for the students’ parents to offer the warning to their children. The teachers become defensive and leave quickly. The teacher of color raises the issue later, telling the teacher that she may be doing more harm than good. One of the white teachers says that she practices non-violent communication and that her approach to her students is 100% loving. Further, she says that she feels like it’s bullying to repeatedly suggest that she is having a negative impact on her students when she is clearly offering an empowering vision of themselves.

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: 6) How would you hope our community would respond to this situation, and 7) How could the use of “both/and” thinking inform the response? (Small group discussion – 15 minutes)

Facilitator’s Note: The ability to answer question #7 may be compromised if participants have not read the Introduction and early chapters of Living in the Tension, where the idea of “both/and” thinking is introduced. Exercise 2.5 explores this skill, so if your group is unlikely to complete reading, placing exercise 2.5 earlier in your program is advisable. 

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 about what we can take from this scenario. (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?

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

Wrap up: The purpose of this activity was to dig into an issue that faces many communities in order to learn more about each other and our tendencies so that we can be more prepared to respond when something arises in our own community.