White Awake – 7 Hour Daylong Workshop (2017)

This curriculum was designed by Eleanor Hancock, (director and co-founder of White Awake) in response to a request by Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. The workshop was originally designed as an introductory experience for practitioners who would be participating a white affinity class series at the Center. The curriculum has since been used for other workshops, including a 70 person day long held in Boston in 2017. 


Designed for 30-50 participants. Agenda given for a 10am-5pm time period, with an hour to hour and a half break for lunch.

Resources:

truth-circle-cambridge

Truth Circle objects / Cambridge, MA 2016

Homework

Videos during the workshop

Reading during the workshop

Materials

  • large paper and nontoxic markers
  • video projector
  • mindfulness bell
  • free writing instruments for participants (as needed)
  • Truth Circle objects

Outline of Activities:

10:00 am

Breath together (5 min)

Welcome (5 min)

  • ask for popcorn sharing … why you are here? (and/or on any common experience you know this group has had together that led them to attend this day long)
  • name intention of our day together (specific to group / event)

Shared Agreements / facilitator led (10 min)

Potential Opening Statement from Facilitator:

“We are all learning. I am empowered to lead, and this work is my primary focus … some of you all have more experience with this topic than others; but truly, no one is an expert. We – here, nationally, – we are figuring this out together.

Approach ourselves and one another with kindness. There is a culture, often in “anti-racist” activist spaces, and elsewhere, that is rigid, blaming; tempting to “be right” or show how much we know; a lack of trust in ourselves and one another as white people; a lack of love for ourselves and one another as white people … a harshness has developed. This harshness will not solve the problem at hand. We have to be kind, to be gentle – while also courageous and honest – because this is what works.”

Review general agreements for group work:

  • nonjudgmental container;
  • share from personal experience;
  • willingness to follow the facilitator’s lead (this is truly a life-long exploration; we have one day; asking for your willingness to follow where I’ve decided to take us; and will apologize ahead of time, but I may sometimes interrupt and redirect! 🙂
  • take space / make space

10:20 am

Partners: “Why I came” (10 min)

Popcorn share back (5 min)

10:40 am

Review these general assumptions (from “Our Analysis” page) (10min)

Race is not biologically “real”, but it is a real social construction with real social impacts.

White is a racial identity. We are members of a collective; even if recently immigrated or moved here from elsewhere; the collective has certain social meanings, privileges, expectations; we are read a certain way by others; and we share the burden of responsibility for correcting course, even as we are not personally responsible …

We can experience both privilege and marginalization – in fact, most of us do.

Our inclusion in the social category of “white” warrants us privilege, but race is only one part of our identity. Gender, sexual orientation, economic class, educational background, body size and physical ability … these are some of the other factors that affect our relative privilege or marginalization in society.

Racism is part of an interlocking system of oppression that can be called “white supremacy.”

White supremacy includes such oppression as misogyny and gender bias; the exploitation and ranking of people based on income and access to capital; the oppression and marginalization of people based on sexual orientation and gender expression; and other forms of ranking and hierarchy that combine with the underlying notion of the supremacy of the “white race” to form a network of social control.

The creation of “white” as a race is something that happened over time.

For example, Jewish people and the Irish were not always considered white, as they are now.

White people tend to cast question of race in terms of individual guilt (“I never” or “my ancestors didn’t” or “my ancestors did”). But fact is, this is a social phenomena. We cannot avoid participation.

Clarifying questions (10 min)

  • keep brief and moving (not opening space for a lot of commentary or personal stories)
  • “we’ll be interacting with various pieces of this, just want to be sure you all are clear on the assumptions I bring – even if you don’t agree with them! :)”

11:00am

Triads – personal story around racial awareness / identity development (15 min)

“Share with the one another the process by which you became aware that you were white, and that being white comes with privilege. Some prompts you might respond to:”

  • When first recognize yourself as white?
  • By what process has this awareness has grown?
  • What feelings surround the knowledge of unearned privilege and the cost of this privilege to others?
  • Have you tried to do anything about racism?
  • Have you ever had difficult, racialized experiences w people of color?
  • Ask that when one person is speaking, the other person not speak or respond, but simply give the speaker their complete, undivided attention.

Popcorn share back (5 min)

Short Break (5-10 min)

11:30 am

Introduce assumptions the group will work with in the next section of workshop (5 min)

Racism is a “divide and conquer” strategy, created to protect the interests of a small, ruling class.

Anti-black racism is a divide-and-rule strategy developed out of the very legitimate fear of the former U.S. Slave society’s ruling class that indentured Europeans and enslaved Africans, when united, could overthrow the slave society.

Understanding the function of racism is important if we want to disrupt and dismantle it.

Watch “Are Cracker, White Trash, & Redneck Racist?” (5 min)

Clarifying questions (5 min)

11:45 am

Group reading: “Why I Left the Klan” (15 min)

  • create a selection from the first 7 pages, ending with “That’s when I began to do some real serious thinkin’.”
  • mark sections for individuals to read; have participants read the different sections aloud (about 1-3 paragraphs per reader)

12:00 pm

Triads: share your “class” story, and relate it to race – (15 min)

  • For example, were you: sheltered/isolated; had no problems with money; lived with poverty, faced hardship; lived in neighborhoods with folks of color; lived in white neighborhood; felt pitted against folks of color … ?

Popcorn share (5min)

LUNCH (12:30-2pm)

2pm

Review homework: “What is White Supremacy?” (5-10min)

  • “Who had a chance to read this?”
  • Summarize key points (and or ask participants to do so; popcorn style)
  • “For me this piece is: Can we get real about who we are? Creation myth vs reality”

Silent Contemplation (10min)

  • Instructions:
    • “I will make different two statements, saying each of them three times.
    • Don’t worry about whether or not you believe that these statements are true. Just notice how the statement effects you.
    • The first time I make the statement, I will ask you to notice how you feel in your body.
    • The second time, I will ask you to notice what emotions are arising. Don’t worry if you don’t feel a strong emotion. Numbness or any kind of unexpected emotion/feeling is a reasonable thing to feel. Just make note of what the feeling is.
    • The third and last time I repeat each statement, I will ask you to notice what thoughts are arising.”
  • Statements:
    • “White Supremacy is fundamental to the existence of this country” (say this aloud three times; give instructions and pause after each reading; ring a bell with each repetition; first repetition: notice body; second repetition: notice emotion; third repetition: notice thoughts)
    • “The United State of America is founded on the genocide of Native peoples, human trafficking and the enslavement of African peoples, the takeover of half of Mexico by war” (again, read this statement three times;3 notice body; notice emotion; notice thought – bell between each)

Popcorn share (10min)

2:30pm

Video and reflection (one hour total)

  • Select a video, or multiple video clips, that are relevant to the group that has gathered, current events, etc.
  • Examples below include videos that came out after police shootings in 2017, as well as a selection of the video Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness. It may be helpful to review instructions given in each of the older “Waking up to Whiteness” workshops about working with the Wellbriety video.
  • Total length of time allowed, in this outline, for just watching is about 25 minutes

Introduction to video and reflection (10 min)

Potential statement from facilitator:

“In this next segment, we will use video to hear the stories of people who are suffering the full cost of white supremacy in their communities. This is not an idea; it is a brutal, enduring reality. We are called to witness, and to reflect on the meaning of these things to ourselves; we are not a passive observer.

You may learn things you didn’t know before. You may see something you have seen before. The space in which we are witnessing and processing together is a sacred container. The act of bearing witness to the truth is powerful in its own right. Allowing ourselves to be open to the emotions these stories evoke is an important part of the transformation that group work makes possible.

Instructions:

  • Before we begin, find a partner. You will be watching these videos with your partner. There are two sets of video.
  • After each section of video you will have about 12 minutes to reflect on what we just watched with your partner, taking turns speaking. I will guide you with prompts.
  • If during this reflection one of you experiences a strong emotion, I encourage you not to push it aside.
  • You might ask one another if you are comfortable with and/or would desire touch. Be careful not to “comfort” in a way that signals that emotions are not okay. Rather, focus on simply being present to one another.
  • There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to feel or respond. Whatever arises is valid.

Allow time for participants to partner up check in about how they might reflect together.

Police violence and community resistance compilation; current/recent events (10 min total)

Reflection with partner (12 min)

  • Notice first what do you feel in your body? Each partner takes a turn.
  • What emotions are arising? Each partner takes a turn.
  • What thoughts are arising? Each partner takes a turn.

Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness (selection) (15min)

Reflection with partner (12 min)

  • Notice first what do you feel in your body? Each partner takes a turn.
  • What emotions are arising? Each partner takes a turn.
  • What thoughts are arising? Each partner takes a turn.

BREAK (15 min)

*Request that participants are silent during the break, only exchanging words if they need to for logistical reasons.

During the break, set up the space so that when participants return they are seated in a large circle. A double row around the circle is fine, as long as everyone can see the center.

3:45pm

Community Ritual (45-60 min total)

Potential statement from facilitator:

“Why watch these things together? We are living in a historic time. We are called on not to despair, and not to hate ourselves. There are reasons why our people came here and did this. It is out of the scope of today’s workshop to go deeply into this,* but understanding these reasons is part of our task. It is part of the internal work we are called on to do: to dig back into history, to understand ourselves, to understand our story, and to engage in the healing necessary. 

We are also called to an external focus – to engagement and action with others [adapt this portion of the statement to correspond with the group you are facilitating.] 

Again, we are living inside a historic moment in time. The Movement for Black Lives has established itself as an ongoing force for change; representatives from hundreds of sovereign, indigenous nations have come together in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline; the Trump campaign is shedding light on the racism, misogyny, and xenophobia in our national consciousness; the climate justice movement is gaining international momentum; imprisoned people across the United States are conducting an unprecedented, coordinated strike … The energies gathering around us amplify our decisions and actions.

You are on a journey and that journey matters.

As a way of honoring our journey, holding space for sacred emotions of bearing witness, and committing ourselves to the work we are called to do as we leave this workshop, we are going to engage in a community ritual together.”

Truth Circle Community Ritual (*see facilitation guide here to lead the ritual)

  • The Truth Circle facilitation guide is written to describe a stand alone event. You will just be leading the Truth Circle ritual itself.
  • Please share with participants the origins of this ritual, and explain if and how you are adapting it from the original (in the original version, four objects hold the place for these four emotions: stick/anger; dry leaves/grief; empty bowl/loss, confusion, emptiness; rock/fear).
  • The modification recommended here is to use four objects: a stone, dry leaves, a stick, and a feather. The suggestion is that you guide the group to hold the space for anger (stick), sadness (dry leaves), commitment (stone), and hope (feather).
  • You may choose other modifications, depending on the nature of the specific event you are facilitating. For your reference, note that there are two other descriptions of this ritual on our site here and here.

Closing (10-15 min)

  • Invite participants to share a short reflection on their experience (appreciation; aha moment; how they are feeling in their body, emotion, mind right now as the workshop ends; what they are taking with them as they leave, etc.)
  • Short popcorn share
  • Close with a simple ritual, such as: ask participants to hold hands, look around the circle and meet one another’s eyes, take three deep breaths together, etc.
  • You may also close with this simple statement (a type of “dedication of merit”):
    • “May we act with future generations in mind, and may the objects of our contemplation serve life.”

[*Potential adaptation / addition to this day long workshop:

As you adapt this curriculum to your particular event, you may want to consider rearranging the timing of activities such that you do have time to share a short lecture (10 min) on the “back story” of conditions in Europe that led to the invasion of Turtle Island.

You can find an example of this type of lecture in the “Waking up to Race” – 15 Hour Three Day Workshop (see Lecture: “A Historical Perspective on Europe” in the second half of Day Two). Other good resources include both of Derek Rasmussen’s Quallunology articles (here and here); Chapter 2 (“A Culture of Conquest”) of Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book An Indigenous People’s History of the United States; and Starhawk’s Appendix from Dreaming the Dark, The Burning Times: Notes on a Crucial Period of History.]

BREAK

4pm

15-20 sit (minimal guidance)

CIMC: last night focused on creating an inclusive community

my challenge to you: look at how this community can engage internally and externally

there is support for finding your growing edge
this is part of creating inclusive community …
dovetail off of Black man’s story in MIV: an inclusive community is one that focuses not just internally, but externally

Lewis Woods, Black churches vs “convert” White sanghas:

Compare your “average” convert Buddhist center with your “average” Black church in the U.S. In the church one will often hear sermons about political races, police brutality, or public education issues that affect not just members of the church but members of the larger Black Community. Black churches are embedded in larger communities. They are structured so as to mitigate the concrete situation of the members of the churches. Predominantly White convert Buddhist communities, however, tend more to resemble clubs, enacting a sort of corporate individualism in which the center is as alienated from public life. These convert sanghas are thoroughly disconnected from the public concerns that members of Black communities cannot help but bring with them, given the position of African Americans in the American racial hierarchy.

Last activity – partners/popcorn/fish bowl:

What are you taking away from the day long?

Are there any commitments you can make to furthering your work internally / externally?

Closing:

“promise” of the white caucusing work your community has committed itself to: Matthew Hepburn’s testimony

Promise of the dharma / radical dharma – quote from Rev angel’s webinar … freedom, our inherent goodness
2pm / Boston, larger group …

Framing for video

Watch these with a partner; 40 minute video; will pause in middle for a few minutes to process with partner; then again at end, same process with partner

Find partner now / Introduce video (15min)

“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.

Does include triggering information. Desire is that you and partner can support one another to stay present. If someone needs to leave in first portion, this is understood … encourage you to come back, process with partner, and stay for 2nd portion (more analytical)

Bearing witness: help us develop an understanding of history from the eyes of the “other”, see ourselves through the eyes of another, and grasp the extent of racism’s legacy and modern day expression. Materials such as these provide white people with the opportunity to grow in humility as we begin to grasp the enormity of what we do not know.

Allowing ourselves to be open to the emotions these stories evoke is an important part of the transformation that group work makes possible.

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.

2:15pm

Video and reflection

First portion Wellbriety / pause (25min, through “This isn’t history. We have to deal with it.”)

10min: sharing w partner (body; emotion; thought … and if, esp w body/emotion, the expression is more direct than words, go with it; just keep breathing; touch/hand on knee, if comfortable for you two …)

2:50pm

Second portion Wellbriety / pause (10min)

10min: sharing w partner (body; emotion; thought … and if, esp w body/emotion, the expression is more direct than words, go with it; just keep breathing; touch/hand on knee, if comfortable for you two …)

3:15pm

BREAK / SHORT – in silence

Rearrange chairs into circle 2 deep / place extra paper & writing implements in the center of circle

3:30

Popcorn share with whole group:

what came up for folks with this video?
intergenerational trauma?
what does healing look like?

3:45

Lecture: “How ‘we’ came to be colonized and then colonizers”

(10 min)

Malidoma Patrice Some – A respected member of the indigenous, Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso, in West Africa whose mission, as given by his elders and expressed in the tagline of his home page, is this:

“I offer the wisdom of the African ancestors so that Westerners might find the deep healing they seek.”

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

Provide some insight into the roots of European imperialism and colonization abroad, noting that somewhere in each of our ancestry are people who evolved in sustainable relationship to the land where they lived, and who were themselves colonized by violent, imperial forces (see “What Happened to Us?” section in this White Awake blog post).

You could 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, “Quallunology 101”, and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States.).

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.

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.

4pm

Free-writing (10 min)

whatever is coming up
What is it that we need to heal?
white folks as a collective; yourself, your family, your community of origin, community of practice …

“Truth Mandala” modified for Going Forth (45 min)

stick (anger); leaves (sadness); feather (hope); stone (commitment)

Closing Practice (5 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.