From At the Crossroads, an occasional newsletter from Crossroads Ministry. Co-Executive Director Robette Dias is a teacher and close friend of mine who used to be a Director of Religious Education in Northern California and active in the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression Multicultural ministry.
I’ve found caucusing to be a time of deep personal growth, transformation, and intense spiritual and emotional witness to the truth of oppression and liberation.
Crossroads, and the People’s Institute discussed in the following text, are both ally organizations in the UUA Groundwork Youth and Young Adult Anti-Racism Training Program.
Physician, heal thyself! This is a familiar old turn of the phrase that holds a grain of truth. When one is an expert in the field, there can be a tendency for that person – or institution – to exceptionalize themself/itself from what is ailing others. (how true for UU!)
Crossroads is no exception! In working with institutions on anti-racism, we often times felt that if we understood the analysis so well, well enough to teach it to others, then maybe we weren’t so sure it applied to ‘us’. There was a tendency to exceptionalize our organization from the rest of the race construct.
It was through racial identity caucusing that Crossroads realized it actually IS a white institution – and we began looking intentionally at how Internalized Racial Oppression (IRO) and Internalized Racial Superiority (IRS) were keeping us locked in unjust power dynamics.
One very public example is the Anti-Racism/Anti-War statement that Crossroads and the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond created jointly. That statemetn came out of the People of Color caucus – and the white caucus had to choose whether or not to move forward with it. It was a major step in the white institution following the leadership of People of Color.
Caucusing is how we at Crossroads hold ourselves accountable to the analysis – working through the Power dynamics that if left unchecked will continue to undermine our efforts of becoming an anti-racism/anti-oppressive institution. In order for teams to effect anti-racist transformation in their institutions, caucusing is key. When People of Color and Whites each work on their internalization, they can come together as strong allies in building concrete organizing strategies to dismantle racism.
For more on how IRO and IRS function together to maintain the race construct and how to get started on effective caucusing, see the article entitled Racial Identity Caucusing: A Strategy for Building Anti-Racist Collectives that is available on our website. You are also invited to speak with one of our organizers. And remember – how does a white institution become an anti-racist institution? Caucus caucus caucus!