On May 28, I attended the first of a two-part workshop, “But I Don’t Feel White: Let’s Talk Race,” co-sponsored by the Wilmot Public Library and Wilmot United Congregational Church’s Racial Justice Steering Committee. In response to recent letters that were critical of this event, written by three people who did not attend, I wish to share my firsthand experience.
Following introductions, the event organizers introduced the rules of engagement for the event, which called for confidentiality, active listening, and a judgement-free zone. Two facilitators led our group of local people in discussion of our (mostly white) identities.
The conversations, both in pairs and as a larger group, were opportunities to reflect on our formative experiences and consider how our identities were shaped by factors such as our ethnicity, race, education, social groups, religion, economics, and popular culture.
The discussions then turned to our connections to more diverse populations and what we learned about ourselves and others through these experiences. We discovered that within our mostly white community, our group represented a wide range of experiences and backgrounds and varying degrees of connection to people of other races. What we did not discuss was the highly politicized body of legal scholarship called Critical Race Theory.
I emerged from the workshop with fresh insights into my own evolving identity and that of my neighbors. The conversation affirmed my belief that talking about race and the growing diversity of our nation is healthy and necessary if we hope to heal our divided nation and contribute to building more compassionate, inclusive, and equitable communities. For me, this workshop was an important first step in this direction.
Kimberly Swick Slover