3.3 - Developing our Analysis - Consciousness Raising and Taking Action

3.3 – Developing Our Analysis – Consciousness Raising and Taking Action (60 minutes)

Materials needed: Definitions Exploration sheet, category placemats, activity cards, Beliefs and Goals sheet, Raising Consciousness and Taking Action (Ideas) sheet, pencils or pens

Purpose of piece: To clarify our understanding of what constitutes racial justice, consciousness-raising, and action. To explore our personal beliefs and set personal goals.

Say to group: People invested in racial justice often believe that paying attention to both personal conscious-raising and action are necessary. What gets complicated is that the way various activities get characterized can sometimes lead to conflict, critique, and bad feelings. Specifically, in many groups, activities defined as “political action” are valued over those considered “personal consciousness-raising.” Today we are going to delve into some definitions that have been put forward regarding what constitutes racial justice work in order to clarify our own thinking about how we classify consciousness-raising and taking action. We’ll then make plans for our own forward movement.

Say to group: Let’s start by reviewing some definitions. These are not necessarily “the” definitions we must hold. But, they are reflective of generally agreed upon approaches to the terms.

  • How are the definitions of “racial justice,” “anti-racism,” and “consciousness-raising” similar or different? (In case it is not clear, we want to look at the three different terms. The intent is not to compare the two definitions offered for each term.)
  • What reactions do you have to the terms and their definitions?

(10 minutes)

Say to group: Given these definitions as well as our discussion, in groups of 3 or 4, we are going to do a quick categorizing activity. I’m going to hand you a set of cards. Each one has an activity written on it. I’m also going to hand you a set of category placemats. Your task is to determine which activities go with which category. Your group needs to come to consensus regarding how to categorize each activity card. Feel free to spread out on the nearest flat surface. You’ll have a fairly short time period to accomplish this. The reason for the time limit is to challenge you to notice which of the tasks seem easy or harder to categorize. (10 minutes)

Category Cards
Personal Consciousness-Raising Taking Action as an Individual Nice, but not anti-racist action nor consciousness raising
Consciousness-Raising with Others Taking Action in a Group


Activity Cards
Participating in a march or rally Reading a book or watching a film on race issues Contacting a public official to advocate a position
Writing a blog, article, or book related to racial justice Attending lectures or conferences focused on race Attending meetings held by activist organizations
Creating workshops to educate about race and racial justice Talking with family/friends about racial justice Disrupting enactments of privilege during conversations
Supporting POC-led political actions Fund-raising to support POC-led groups Giving a speech
Hosting multi-racial or affinity group dialogues Participating on a diversity, equity, or inclusivity committee Phone banking to push a position
Door-to-door canvassing to promote justice-oriented legislation Creating or participating in community-based development projects Creating or participating in initiatives to shift policies in one’s community
Providing one-to-one mentorship to people building an anti-racist practice Acting as an ally for a friend or associate Writing a letter to the editor
Using personal resources to support anti-racism activities Studying theories of social change Recruiting people into anti-racism through one-to-one conversations
Creating or implementing curriculum that supports anti-racist practice development Participating in consciousness-raising groups Investigating one’s own relationship to privilege
Starting a tutoring program to support at risk students of color Serving food at a homeless shelter serving mostly POC Collecting holiday gifts for disadvantaged kids of color


Large group discussion: (20 minutes)

  1. To what degree was categorizing the activities easy or difficult? Why?
  2. What are some of the questions that arose?
  3. How important is it that we agree on the definitions and categorizing?
  4. What can affect one’s perspective?

Facilitator’s Note: The point of this exercise is to critically interrogate the idea that there is one correct way to characterize these activities. Many times, the same activity can be interpreted multiple ways. If a group feels the need to make decisions regarding an activity’s classification for the sake of internal clarity and decision-making, there is nothing wrong with that. The caution is that an emphasis on classification can result in a hierarchy of valued activities, leading the group to value some people’s contributions over others. Sustained community engagement requires ensuring that all contributions are valued, even while a balanced approach that includes both consciousness-raising and action should be encouraged. A secondary purpose can be highlighting that it can be useful to notice if there is a tendency to select a particular type of activity over another. This can reveal areas for stretching and growth.

Say to group: The Consciousness Raising and Taking Actions (Ideas) resource sheet has a number of possible action steps, along with most of those we worked with in this last activity. Feel free to use it as a reference as we move into the next part. Now, using the Personal Beliefs and Goals handout, I want to invite you to create a statement that includes the following: (10 minutes)

  • How you view consciousness-raising and taking action in terms of the relationship between them and the importance of them both.
  • Your goals regarding how you will do both consciousness-raising and action.
    • Within the next week I am going to…
    • Within the next month I am going to…
    • This year I plan to…

Large group discussion: (10 minutes)

  1. Are there any volunteers who want to share their personal view regarding the relationship between consciousness-raising and taking action?
  2. Is there anyone who would be willing to share their goals for learning and action?
  3. Does anyone fear their goals are a bit ambitious, and would like to create an accountability partnership to make follow up more likely?

Facilitator’s Note: Accountability partnerships are always useful, and so feel free to invite everyone to get together will a fellow participant and plan how they will follow up with each other.

Wrap Up: There is much to criticize in the realm of racial justice action, particularly when a set of well-meaning people jump into action without understanding the complicated dynamics of the situation and/or what assumptions borne from a privileged position are evident in one’s behavior. For this reason, it is essential that we always retain a self-reflective stance, keep an eye trained on expanding our awareness, and regularly take action in support of justice. This keeps us moving in the direction of Praxis, the last definition on our Definition Sheet. Praxis occurs when we take theory and move it into action, reflecting on the experience, learning from it, and then acting again based on what we’ve learned. A necessary catalyst for the growth is the dialogical relationships we create among each other, both within affinity groups and across difference. Regular opportunities to self-reflect in conversation with others is often the driver of the necessary growth. Two questions we can keep asking ourselves are: 1) What more do I need to know in order to take my next step or form an educated opinion on this matter, and 2) How can I make sure I am making the most impact?