6.2 - Developing our Community - Exploring a Dilemma

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

Materials needed: Copies of Scenario Response Worksheet (6.2a or 6.2b), 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 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 6.2a):

A group of white community members have been inspired by recent protests, are aligned with a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) chapter, and want to take action. They live in a predominantly white area, their organization has very few members of color, and they don’t have a relationship with the few people of color-led advocacy organizations that exist in their area. The members of the group are in conflict over their next steps. Given recent events, published articles, and calls from leadership, one subset of the group believes they should approach a people of color-led organization in their area and ask them for direction. Another subset recognizes how much each of them needs to learn in order to do this work well, as they’re all relatively new to conversations and advocacy around race. This subgroup would like to start with consciousness-raising activities focused on educating themselves. Adding to their confusion is that each subgroup includes at least one individual who has a long-term relationship with a person of color who affirms their position.

Scenario 2 (Handout 6.2b):

At a yoga studio that serves a rather diverse clientele, a statue of Ganesh sits on an altar in the front of the room. The white yoga teacher begins with a chant to Ganesh and the last pose has the participants holding their feet facing the altar. Three Indian women are in the class, 1 who is Hindu. After a few weeks of attending classes, two of the Indian women tell the instructor that it doesn’t make sense for the Ganesh chant to be used as a mental health tool, that it is disrespectful to ever have feet facing an altar, and that the studio has pictures of Hindu gods in the bathroom, which is not okay. The white instructor freezes, not knowing how to respond. The owner of the studio, overhearing the critique, comes over to tell the Indian women that it is okay for the gods to be in the restroom, saying “You have to think about Hindu gods like a disco ball. Each facet is like another aspect of god, but they’re all god and can be used in many ways as part of any healing practice.” After the women leave, the owner tells the somewhat rattled instructor not to take the criticism too seriously, saying “I don’t understand why they think god can’t see you pee.”

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 some of what they wrote down. (Small group sharing – 10 minutes)

Staying in the same small group, discuss the next set of questions on the worksheet: 6) How would you hope people 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: 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 – up to 20 minutes, as needed)

  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 dig into a complicated issue 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.