Only a few hours ago, I just completed another Undoing Racism workshop by The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond that was geared toward religious communities (I am proud to say that my synagogue showed out to represent the Jews!). I love the Undoing Racism workshop because every time I go I learn something new, and I gain a deeper understanding of the things I already knew.
What I appreciated about this latest workshop was how it clarified a few things that have been stewing in my head for a while. There are two things that I took from this workshop that is going to shape how I work from now on.
1. Racism is the biggest obstacle to organizing movements for justice and social change.
Pay close attention to what this is saying -- and, more importantly, what it isn't. This does not mean that racism is the worst kind of oppression, nor is it saying that racism is the only oppression that matters. It means that racism shoots us in the foot every time we try to move toward change.
You can't say, "Feminism is about achieving justice and equity for all women" and work toward that in a way that primarily (and often exclusively) benefits middle-class White women. You can't advocate for justice and equity for LGBTQ people while ignoring how LGBTQ people of color bear the brunt of anti-LGBTQ policies and violence. You can't save the earth and ignore the impact of imperialism and colonialism on the process of industrialization. When it comes to class, you can actually make an argument that racism was deliberately set up in order to prevent European indentured servants, African slaves, and Native Americans from joining together and organizing to resist economic exploitation and domination by the ruling class.
2. Anti-racism is about transforming institutions and systems.
Racism is the Matrix; to get out of that programming, to see it for what it is, we have to take the red pill. Otherwise, everything you do is still operating within that system. If the work we do reinforces that system, it won't matter how many people of color are on the stage, on the board of directors, or even in the audience.
Anti-racism strikes at the core of an institution or system: how it structures itself and functions in the community as a reflection of its values, beliefs, and mission. This is where the code that keeps us in the Matrix comes from. This is where our energy and effort needs to go.
There's a lot more that happened in that workshop, but this is my starting point.