#MeAndWhiteSupremacy Book Circle, based on Layla Saad’s anti-racism workbook

On Wednesday 17th April at Black Book Café, 7.30-9.30pm, members of Stroud Radical Reading Group are invited to join a #MeAndWhiteSupremacy Book Circle, based on Layla Saad’s workbook (Facebook event).

This session is not like our other reading group sessions, so it is important you read the text below before attending – this details how the session will work, who is welcome to attend, and a shared commitment to agreements about the purpose of the session and the responsibilities of those attending. Our plans for SRRG sessions from May – July, which cover different topics and will not involve the arrangements detailed below, will be shared on this website shortly.

As the final session of our series for the start of 2019, we will be working together as a group to take a clear look at the different multifaceted aspects of white supremacy and how they operate in both subtle and direct ways within ourselves, and within others.

This session is not like our other reading group sessions. Though sometimes we welcome people who have not read texts to listen and even contribute, in this case we are asking that only those who have read at least pages 1-72 of Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy Workbook” attend (the workbook is availabe free online via this link). The session, like Layla Saad’s workbook, is for any person who holds white privilege – meaning persons who are visually identifiable as white, white-passing, or holding white privilege – which is a distinction we would not normally make. The group meeting will follow the structure outline in The Circle Way, as stipulated by Layla Saad (read pdf of The Circle Way guidelines here).

Though The Circle Way has similarities with our usual approach, it will be slightly more formal than usual – more details below. A key aspect is that we will agree on the purpose of the session and how we conduct ourselves during it beforehand (these notes themselves have been agreed by three of us).

This session is for people who are ready to work on this: people who want to create change in the world by activating change within themselves first. It is not, as is often the case with our sessions, about whether we liked the content or style of the workbook, how it relates to other work, or our criticisms of it.

One agreement we will make is to share responsibility for the best possible outcome, with the best possible outcome being that as a result of doing this work, we will be better placed to, in Layla Saad’s words “question, challenge and dismantle the system of white supremacy”, and “show up better for Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour”.

Like our usual sessions, this is a one-off, two-hour meeting (at Black Book Café, 7.30-9.30pm, Wednesday 17th April). This limits the extent to which we can cover the range of topics covered in the workbook. If, having completed the workbook and session, there are people who wish to continue to meet to work through further aspects, we are open to helping to arrange this.

Aims:

  1. to hold up a mirror to people who hold white privilege to look at white supremacy head on (instead of sideways, broadly or intellectually), and begin to tell the truth about how this system of oppression manifests within yourself on a personal level
  2. the loftier goal is to help us to become better ancestors for those who will come after us, given the opportunity to disrupt the systems that have kept so many people marginalised and oppressed

Principles:

  1. Leadership rotates among all circle members
  2. Responsibility is shared for the quality of experience: We are responsible for each others’ wellbeing and trust, as well as our learning. We need to be able to be vulnerable for this topic to work.
  3. Reliance is on wholeness, rather than on any personal agenda: We will succeed or fail as a group. If one person derails the conversation, everyone gets less out of it. If everyone is able to be open and honest, we all have the opportunity to learn.

Agreements:

  • We hold all stories or personal material in confidentiality
  • We listen to each other with compassion and curiosity
  • We ask for what we need and offer what we can
  • We agree to employ a group guardian to watch our timing and energy
  • We agree to pause at a signal when we feel the need to pause
  • We keep each other accountable and name white fragility and other defensive responses respectfully.
  • We hear this naming in the compassionate spirit it is given – we are all here to learn.
  • We avoid derailing of the conversation away from the aims above. We all share responsibility for keeping to these aims.

We will ask people to be honest and hope to create a space where they feel comfortable to do so. The meeting is not about blame or shame but about noticing behaviours and holding each other to account. We ask that everyone attending takes responsibility for observing when White Fragility, White Exceptionalism, or White Apathy appear. At certain points of the meeting there will be opportunities to reflect on this, and to respectfully challenge each other.

Practices:

  1. Speak with intention: noting what has relevance to the conversation in the moment
  2. Listen with attention: respectful of the learning process for all members of the group
  3. Tend to the well-being of the circle: remaining aware of the impact of our contributions

The meeting will take place as follows:

Arrival from 7.30pm (please do not be late, we will start promptly at 7.40pm)

7.40pm – Welcome and opening message, including a reminder of the intention and guidelines

7.45pm – Check-in: We will allow everyone a few minutes to say how much of the workbook they have already completed, and why they decided to attend – which could include a reflection on how they found doing the journaling. We will start with a volunteer and proceed around the circle. If an individual is not ready to speak, their turn is passed and another opportunity is offered after others have spoken

8.15pm – We will allow everyone a few minutes to talk about their response to a journaling question of their choice from the first six in the workbook, taking turns in a circle (What have you learned about You & White Privilege? What have you learned about You & White Fragility? What have you learned about You & Tone Policing? What have you learnt about You & White Silence? What have you learnt about You and White Superiority? What have you learnt about You & White Exceptionalism?). You are welcome to bring notes if you prefer.

8.45pm – We will open up the conversation – allowing each other to reflect on the comments others have made and respectfully keep each other accountable and name white fragility and other defensive responses.

9.15pm – Closing: We will allow a few minutes for each person to comment on what they learned, or what stays with them as they leave – which could include how they have found the session, and whether they would prefer to continue the work in a group or individually.

9.30pm – We will close the formal meeting. Before each new section we will have a few minutes silence to refocus.

Thank you for reading, we hope to see you on Wednesday,

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