“Waking up to Race” – 15 Hour Three Day Workshop

WA Truth Mandala from side

Objects for Truth Mandala community ritual

This curriculum is designed by Eleanor Hancock, director and co-founder of White Awake. This workshop was first led with a group of IMCW practitioners, and volunteers with MINDS Inc, in 2013. The manifestation of these workshops deeply informed the creation of the website, and became the launching pad for White Awake as it currently exists. Eleanor maintains this curriculum, making changes and adjustments in keeping with the times and her own facilitation discoveries.


Designed as a weekend workshop for 15-20 participants. Suggested time frames:  Friday 6-9pm; Saturday 10-6pm; Sunday 2-6pm.

Resources for Day One:

Resources for Day Two:

Resources for Day Three:

Day One (3 hours)

Review Shared Agreements (10 min)

“Body Scan” Sitting Practice (5 min)

“Why am I here?” (30 min)

5 minute break

“White is a Racial Identity” (20 min)

“Whiteness” as viewed from the outside (15 min)

Introduce the bell hooks article “Representing Whiteness in the Black Imagination”. Consider starting with a story such as the opening scene of the “Butler” as an accompaniment to selections from hooks’s article as a way of illustrating the way in which whiteness is and has been experienced as a terrorizing force.

“What did this bring up?” (5 min)

“Breathing Through” (15 min)

Check in with the group after doing the exercise to see how the activity effected their experience. Mention that this practice is offered as a tool for participants to use, at their own discretion, throughout the workshop experience.

Consider sharing this quote by Toni Morrison as a way of illustrating how we are using this time together to investigate the racial category of “whiteness” and our own experience in it.

Toni Morrison: “A good deal of time and intelligence has been invested in the exposure of racism and the horrific results on its objects. . . . It seems both poignant and striking how avoided and unanalyzed is the effect of racist inflection on the subject. The scholarship that looks into the mind, imagination, and behavior of slaves is valuable. But equally valuable is a serious intellectual effort to see what racial ideology does to the mind, imagination, and behavior of masters.”

What is White Supremacy?” (30 min)
include time for whole group to share main points of article, as well as discussion questions (in pairs or intimate groups) that allow participants to share personal stories and/or reactions to the piec

5 minute break

“Water and salt” (15 min)

“Toning” (5 min)

Day Two (8 hours)

Opening (25 min)

This can be a good opportunity for the person who is facilitating to share some parts of their story, including what led them to this work and what experiences they are bringing to the practice.

Group members can check in with a round robin in which each person introduces themselves and names the gender pronoun they prefer, speaks about something that stood out from Day One (if they were present for it), and expresses an intention for today.

Review Shared Agreements.

“The Milling” adapted for White Awake (10 min)

“Group Reading and Incremental Discussion”  of Waking Up to Race core assumptions (60 min)

5 minute break

“Open Sentences” to illuminate privilege (5 min)

Read selections from The New Jim Crow introduction (10 min)

Repeat “Open Sentences” with partners, this time answering the question: “How does this information make you feel?” (5 min)

“What did this bring up?” (5 min)

LUNCH BREAK (1 hour 15 minutes)

It is important to leave adequate time for lunch, particularly if participants are going to leave the space to get food. Taking a break and feeling some spaciousness and ease in the middle of a long day is a valuable way to support the participants’ ability to integrate the work.

“Levels of Racism” (30 min)

5 minute break

View “The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness” (DVD) (40 min)

The Wellbriety DVD is approximately 70 minutes long, and includes material that may be triggering to some individuals in the group (see “Safety for Survivors of Trauma” under Guiding Group Work). The recommendation for this format is that one person view and decide on an edited portion of the video to share with the group that totals approx 30-35 minutes. It is important that what the group views includes both personal stories of boarding school survivors and their family members, as well as the conceptual framework that the video offers on historical grief and trauma and the community’s path to healing.

Introduce the video: “The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness” is a grassroots movement for healing from the historical grief and trauma of genocide and the Native American boarding school experience.

Refer to “Remedial Education” as a frame for the significance of bearing witness to this type of material while we are gathered as a group. Note three distinctive qualities of this video: it is a direct expression of those who have been subject to genocide and oppression; it clearly presents the way in which historical grief and trauma are passed down from one generation to the next; it outlines a path for healing.

While we watch the video, view it with these three questions in mind:

1: What is the experience of those who are racially oppressed (“their” story)? Note the way in which trauma is not something that remains in the past, but continues to live within the effected community through multiple generations of experience

2: In what way is “their” story “our” story? Note that the story of a victim is also the story of an abuser. As white people we not learning about “somebody else’s” story. We are learning about things that our own “cultural ancestors” did. (see “Cultural Ancestors” or “‘Their’ story is ‘our’ story” activity for more context).

3: “How does healing happen?” This is a grassroots movement of Native American people, and a powerful testament to their healing work. What is our healing work? What do we, as white people, need to heal? How can the journey of these Native American people inform our journey to healing?

“What did this bring up?” (5 min)

“Small group/Large group share” (30 min)

15 minute break

“Cultural Ancestors” or “‘Their’ story is ‘our’ story” (5 min)

Read selections from: “When the Killers Are White”, Combined Destinies pp. 104-114 (10 min)

“What did this bring up?” (5 min)

“What is it that we need to heal” (25 min)

Lecture: “A Historical Perspective on Europe (or “‘Our’ historical grief and trauma”) (10 min)

Offer an explanation of how European colonial tendencies (manifesting as genocide, racism, and the creation of a privileged yet at times depraved “white race”) may have developed.

Describe the similarities between the Roman conquest of the British isles and the Western European conquest of the Americas (referencing Druids and “Boudicca“). Discuss the idea that we have experienced a violent disconnection from our own indigenous roots (“Qallunology 101″ and “Qallunology 201“).

Point out the ways in which modern capitalism has its roots in the “Burning Times” and the land enclosure that took place from the 16th through the 19th centuries in Europe (as described in Dreaming the Dark and “Quallunology 101”).

Suggest that participants open their hearts to the enormity of what we are investigating and attempting to heal. Call on compassion and curiosity as vehicles of transformation.

“Free-writing” (10 min)

“Truth Mandala” modified for Going Forth (30 min)

5 minute break

“Present Moment” Sitting Practice (10 min)

Ask the participants, upon opening their eyes, to take a moment to focus on each of the other participants in the circle. Encourage the participants to make eye contact and express silent gratitude for the courage and resilience of every person present, including themselves.

Day Three (4 hours)

Opening Check-in (10 min)

Request that group members check in with a round robin in which each person introduces themselves and names the gender pronoun they prefer, speaks about something that stood out from Day Two (if they were present for it), and expresses an intention for today.

Review Shared Agreements.

“Specific Application” (25 min)

“Building relationships with people of color” (25 min)

“Group Reading and Incremental Discussion” of Building Accountable Relationships with Communities of Color (60 min)

30 minute break

“Allies and Intervention Playback” (1 hour, 45 min)

Allow time for an informal check in at the end of the session. Consider closing with: “Present Moment” Sitting Practice, “Toning”, or “What am I taking away?”.

Make sure that participants will have access to one another’s emails, and that anyone who wants the opportunity to opt out of this share is given the opportunity to do so.

Consider following up on this weekend workshop with informal gatherings and/or a study group.


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