What did we learn? A recap of the November 13 workshop “How To Learn From Our White Antiracist Ancestors: Lessons From the Life of Anne Braden” (December 2021)
We have forebearers dedicated to antiracism and organizing the White community to strive for racial justice. To inspire us, Corvallis SURJ organized a November 13 workshop on antiracist ancestors with educator Lynn Burnett. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Corvallis/Albany Branch of the NAACP; the Unitarian Universalist Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion team; and the Race Matters group of First Congregational United Church of Christ. A thoughtful group of two dozen folks from across the Willamette Valley spent two hours discussing Burnett’s biographical sketches of White antiracists, focusing on Anne Braden (see The Life of Anne Braden, Part 1 and Part 2, and White Anti-racists Have Ancestors). Braden’s religious upbringing was at odds with the harsh racial inequality around her, which compelled her to learn more. When Braden developed relationships with Black people, she recognized that racial differences were a lie. As she became committed to antiracist work, Braden understood that it was crucial to mobilize the White community to join the fight against racism.
The workshop discussions of White antiracists, combined with our own stories, taught us that heart connections are crucial, including connections with folks not already committed to antiracism. We shared how “Critical Race Theory” is being wildly misrepresented. Several folks warned that stuck anger is not useful. Instead, positive, uplifting stories can build stamina and small actions and people working in the background do contribute to progress.
We had widespread agreement that we always want our learning to result in action, such as sponsoring a book group through local libraries, creating opportunities for one-on-one conversations (something that Corvallis SURJ has done in the recent past), or simply expanding our social circles. We discussed what could be done in our community now by supporting the Corvallis school board members in their efforts to be antiracist.
By the end of the two hours, folks reported being uplifted and energized by the workshop and by their interactions with other participants.
For more information about Lynn Burnett and about White antiracists, visit his website at crossculturalsolidarity.com. And if you are interested in helping Corvallis SURJ pursue one of the actions identified in this work, contact us at corvallis.SURJ@gmail.com.