Racism isn’t just going to die off with younger generations – which means we need to take a more proactive approach to understanding and dismantling racist systems and white supremacy. That’s why we’re so excited about the upcoming inaugural White Responsibility Teach-In, founded by educator-facilitator-advocate Jack Hill.
We’ll be there — showing our film I’m Not Racist… Am I?— along with some of the most thoughtful and dynamic authors, educators, and activists doing antiracism work right now.
There’s so much noise when it comes to talking about race and racism. And too much of it reflects a general lack of analysis and knowledge. But this conference is the real deal. Just take a look at the principles identified front-and-center:
ANTI-RACISM VISION & CORE PRINCIPLES History is important. Anti-racism requires a clear understanding of historical racism and white supremacy. It is crucial to see this history not as separate, but as a foundational element of American history.
Racism is the norm. Racism and white supremacy exist today and all members of this society are active participants in it. No exceptions. Owning this truth, and recognizing the presence of racism in ways that may be easy to overlook is crucial.
Anti-racism is our responsibility. The work of anti-racism, based in the knowledge of our past and the recognition of our present, requires intentional, deliberate action. We must challenge, check, and change our equity systems and structures for equity every day, and this requires a life-long commitment. It is the work to actively engage in dismantling systems of racism and white supremacy.
Every other day, it seems, there’s another racist act to stir outrage. Far too many of these involve terror in places of worship, at parties, during police stops, and more. Others involve the N-Word or blackface. None of these are surprising or out of the ordinary, of course. But we get exposed to them consistently on social media.
I often feel frustrated when these incidents go viral. Not because I don’t think we should call out racist acts. But I get worried that when we only pay attention to the most despicable acts by white people, the more we internalize the lie that those people are the racists and the rest of us nice, white people are off the hook.
The outrage becomes addictive. It spikes, weans, and then something else happens to spark outrage, and we go through the cycle all over again.
Well, last weekend, I happened to witness one of those moments up close when a group of white nationalists marched into Politics and Prose, a Washington, D.C., independent bookstore, and disrupted a talk with Jonathan Metzl on his new book “Dying of Whiteness.” With a bullhorn and their own videographer, they spewed an incomprehensible string of words before they started chanting, “This land is our land. This land is our land.” They were met with boos and some middle fingers, which made their faces smirk even more, and then they marched out right past me.
That’s the part I filmed — capturing their smug faces, a few (including one woman) trying to hide behind sunglasses, others proudly staring down the camera. One guy even winked as he passed me. He’s the one I can’t get out of my head.
The whole event lasted about five minutes. After an internal debate and conversations with others around me, I decided to post the video to Twitter.
Within 24 hours, the video had more than one million views, and most major news outlets were covering the incident. Tens of thousands of people on Twitter were talking about it; I was getting phone calls from reporters and messages from distant cousins and childhood friends. The trolls showed up, too.
Another dose of outrage.
In my everyday life, I get to work with a dedicated group of artist-activists. We make documentary films that deal with race and racism and we’ve never had anywhere near the number of eyes on our work that the video I filmed this weekend had.
Our film follows a group of teens through a yearlong exploration of race and racism, and we’ve been screening it around the U.S. as a way to spark a deeper level of awareness about racism and to build the kind of community connections necessary to take action and make systemic change.
It gets messy and complicated and emotional. But, little by little, we see people waking up to understand how racism has been institutionalized and learn the hard truth that one of the young people in our film states so poignantly, “You can’t get rid of racism just by being nice to all races.”
Every time we screen our film, wherever we are, at least one audience member will ask, “Well, we get it here. But what’s it like when you show it up North/in the Midwest/down South/out West where people are actually racist?” This never fails.
All the racists are always somewhere else and someone else.
And this is why I still feel conflicted about posting that video to Twitter. Do we look at those bigots and think that’s the only version of racism? To paraphrase a lesson in our film from the organizing group The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, if we rounded up all the racists and sent them to outer space, would that get rid of racism?
The answer is no.
Racism is a brilliantly designed, built-to-last system. Which means it’s going to take a long time and an almost unimaginable collective effort to take it apart and build something new. But we must try. And we can’t make progress if we don’t understand it as a system of laws, policies, and practices that benefit white people at the expense of people who are not white.
I’m going to reference our film one more time. I can’t help it. It’s filled with wisdom from some of the most effective antiracist educators around. Working with the students in the film and addressing the guilt that the white kids feel about the benefits they have, Dr. Liza Talusan says to them, “Guilt is a feeling. Not an action.”
If my viral video compels you to pay attention to anything I say, let me tell you this:
Outrage is a feeling. Not an action.
Feel that feeling. It’s normal and necessary. But, please, let’s take that outrage and use it to motivate ourselves toward learning more and taking action. Become an antiracist, not just an outraged voyeur. I’d like to see that go viral.
As subject matter learners, we value any opportunity to learn from new experiences and perspectives. So last Friday our team saw Straight White Men, Broadway’s first play written by a Korean-American woman, Young Jean Lee.
The play’s title has an ironic draw. It’s simple and says exactly what you need to know — this show is about straight, white men. And the performance follows suit.
When the show opens we are greeted by two chorus characters — one transgender, Native person and one gender non-conforming white person named Person in Charge 1 and 2, respectively. They are, as their names suggest, “in charge” of the action onstage. These characters serve as buffers for what might be triggering or uncomfortable content for audience members who aren’t straight, white men. Person In Charge 1 and 2 feel familiar and, despite their complex identities, more relatable than the title characters.
The principal characters, Jake, Drew, and Matt, are all brothers visiting home for Christmas with their father, Ed. They spend time reminiscing over their childhood, recalling moments of radicalism and protest while playing an amended version of Monopoly, developed by their mother, called “Privilege.” We get a sense that this family is “liberal” in that they believe (at least on the surface) in liberal ideals. But as the action unfolds, so does the facade of those liberal ideals.
During an intimate Christmas Eve dinner, Matt breaks into tears — an awkward and unfamiliar experience for the family. This moment looms over them into the next day, leaving everyone unsettled, especially Drew who insists that Matt seek therapy. Everyone has an answer to Matt’s problem: money, insecurity, depression. Matt’s answer is simple: he wants to be useful.
At the core of the production’s story is a discussion of expectations. What is expected of white men? What does accomplishment look like for white men? What destiny is chosen for these characters and for people who look like them? And does failure to meet those expectations decrease their worth?
Lee leads the same way Point Made Learning does — with empathy. While this play challenges the privileges of white manhood, it also exposes the dangers. White men, at least the archetypal white man, benefit from the various systems of oppression designed by and for them. The assumption is that they live without injury. Lee challenges that assumption by suggesting that white men face at least one difficulty: themselves. Matt does not get to choose his destiny, though the privileges of his whiteness, education, and wealth create the illusion that he has self-determination. His destiny (or expectation) is that of the other straight, white men before him — to conquer whatever space he enters. But Matt does not want that, and his family, noticeably missing its matriarch, cannot reconcile his decision or lack thereof. Why wouldn’t he use his privilege to his advantage? Why wouldn’t he participate in white supremacy? Those are their expectations of him and other straight, white men for that matter. But Lee asks another question: are all white men the same?
Marginalized people may find this question difficult to answer. Why should we use our energy to consider the dilemma of white manhood? It’s unfair, and that feeling of inequity lingers after the show closes. But in an era of quick judgement and harsh consequences, Lee looks for a middle ground: an understanding. Where is the empathy?
In the end, there is no clear answer. It is — to borrow a term from Jennifer Yim, one of our mentors and partners — “deceptively simple.” On one hand, Young Jean Lee’s writing and Anna D. Shapiro’s direction leave little to the imagination. Everything is simple, like the play’s title. But there’s also an irony to its simplicity. It makes you wonder why it was so easy. And that maybe it was not so simple at all. There may not be an answer but we can at least commit to learning more.
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This TEDWomen Talk isn’t new, but it is new to us, and as soon as we watched it, we couldn’t wait to share. As high school students in Princeton, NJ, Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo realized they didn’t really understand racism. And so they set off on a journey to ask Americans across the country about their personal experiences with race and racism. What these two young women began to realize is that we can’t, as a nation, build our racial literacy until we close two critical gaps. As they explain in the video:
“First, the HEART gap, an inability to understand each of our experiences, to fiercely and unapologetically be compassionate beyond lip service. And second, the MIND gap, an inability to understand the larger systemic ways in which racism operates.”
Watch the whole video to not only learn more about their project, but to feel inspired by their passion and ideas.
Understanding racism requires an empathetic approach to learning that enables honest discussions with people unlike us, particularly within marginalized groups. Then, we can look to history and research for concrete examples of institutionalized racism and how it marginalizes people on varying levels.
In our workshops at Point Made Learning, we offer “Guiding Lights” for participants looking to engage in more productive discussions about race. We start with, “Ask questions with genuine curiosity, not judgment.”From there, you can open both your heart AND your mind.
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“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great- grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy.”
So begins The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking look at the systematic mass incarceration of African Americans for more than 150 years.
We frequently hear versions of this question: “Slavery ended so long ago; why are we still talking about it?” As Alexander explains, the thirteenth amendment did abolish chattel slavery in the United States. But it also left open the possibility for involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. She then lays out a detailed and incredibly-researched look at how that 13th amendment loophole established a framework for using mass incarceration to continue to deny equal rights and protections for African Americans.
We first read The New Jim Crow years ago, before we started production of our feature documentary I’m Not Racist… Am I?. But this is the type of book worth coming back to again, and again. There are also now more discussion and teaching guides to go along with the bookand, of course, Ava Duvernay’s incredible documentary 13th.
So, as we’ve grown our team this year, we decided now was a good time to re-read. We hope you’ll join us – particularly if you’re looking to expand your understanding of the specific and concrete ways American racism plays out today. This is one of the way to address the “mind gap” in our path toward racial literacy.
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Think critically about the ways we look at protest; why#NeverAgain and not#BlackLivesMatter? Why are the organizers of the former lauded as the leaders of a generation while the latter are deemed terrorists? Gun reform must be intersectional. The conversation must include a discussion about race and how gun violence disproportionately affects people of color. And why concern for that violence is only heard in an echo chamber of the folks who regularly experience that violence.
‘Like Stoneman Douglas, if they can … let their voices be heard, why can’t we do the same and let our voices be heard?.. Why can’t we do the same thing? It’s because we’re black? It’s because we’re in the ghetto … because we’re poor … and they’re richer? I don’t understand.’
The American Opioid Crisis has energized legislators and leaders in medicine to detach archaic opinions of morality from the conversation of drug addiction. Instead, they are focused on addiction as a medical condition and have made strides in providing appropriate care for drug dependent individuals, particularly for opioid dependent people. This changing tide in opinion about addiction differs greatly from that of the 1980s and 1990s during the height of America’s crack-cocaine crisis. That crisis primarily affected black people and the response to treating those addictions was to incarcerate and demonize an entire generation of people.
Though the difference in response to each crisis may not surprise some, this article digs into the qualities that make one crisis an issue of health and the other an issue of criminality.
Asian and Asian-American representation has only scratched the surface of American media. As characters begin to permeate film and television, we must continue to criticize the way Asian characters are portrayed. Orientalism refers to a colonial or otherwise Western representation of Asian cultures, particularly East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Snake charmers, for example, are classic caricatures in the Western
Orientalist lexicon. Suffice it to say, representation begins with authenticity and truth. And in that vein, the author argues that Asian artists should have the agency to tell their own stories without the voices and perspectives of oppressive powers.
[tweetshareinline tweet=”Orientalism surfaces in the New Age commodification of Eastern spirituality, in the predilection to glom separate cultures into a blurry whole…” username=”PM_Learn”]
Similarly, comedian Hari Kondabolu challenges representations of South Asian men, through the lens of The Simpsons character, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. His documentary, “The Problem With Apu”, unpacks the power of seeing a South Asian character represented for the first time on national television and the subsequent manipulation of that power to further marginalize the community Apu reflects.
“…the creators and writers of “The Simpsons,” like the rest of us, have a responsibility to upgrade and evolve their characters to align with cultural norms of the day. Tokenized stereotypes won’t cut it for an emerging generation that is demanding full and equal representation.”
This is a very good first step. Who else is ready to do the same?
“As National Geographic editors prepared an issue dedicated to race, they realized the 130-year-old magazine might face questions about its troubled history on the subject. So they asked John Edwin Mason, a University of Virginia professor who studies the history of Africa and photography, to dig through the magazine’s archives to examine its shortcomings in covering people of color in the United States and abroad. ‘Through most of its history, National Geographic, in words and images, reproduced a racial hierarchy with brown and black people at the bottom, and white people at the top,” Mr. Mason said in an interview on Tuesday.”
This school in Colorado has started the journey. It’s never fun, but people should know what’s happening there.
Parent Nancy Felix describes the culture of the private school in Arvada, Colorado as one of “silencing, of denial,…of no repercussions, [of] no accountability from the current superintendent and principal.” In January, one of the teachers hosted a “chapel,” similar to an assembly, to discuss the topic of racism with students and parents.
“And that’s when the firestorm happened,” Felix said. The Fox News journalist states that, “white students and their parents reportedly felt uncomfortable with the dialogue and content of the presentation” and the teacher who hosted the convening was fired. Felix went to the principal and explained how she felt about the situation: “you can’t fire the only person these children have to go to that’s safe that they trust because he tried to do something that was, in my opinion, really good.”
“In a study published in Psychological Science last year, researchers at the University of Kansas and Texas A&M set out to test what they call the “Marley Hypothesis.” The theory is that minorities may perceive current racism differently because they have more accurate knowledge about the racism of the past. The dominant group, in contrast, may deny racism because they’re ignorant of history. The thesis is more or less an academic attempt to test the assertion of “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley: “If you know your history/then you will know where you’re comin’ from/and you wouldn’t have to ask me/who the heck do I think I am.”
Both sides of the debate about gun laws “invoke what the Founders would have thought,” and this article breaks down what they actually intended with the Second Amendment.
“At its best, the Second Amendment was a commitment to citizen participation in public life and a way to keep military power under civil control. At its worst, it was a way for whites to maintain their social domination.”
The article starts by examining an issue of the National Geographic that ran in 1916, where Aboriginal Australians are described as, “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” It then goes on to illustrate the portrayals of people color throughout the 20th century. This story is the beginning of a series about racial, ethnic, and religious groups and their changing roles in 21st century life. The series runs through 2018 and will feature Muslims, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.
“Race is not a biological construct, as writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains in this issue (There’s No Scientific Basis for Race- It’s a Made-Up Label), but a social one that can have devastating effects. ‘So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another,’ she writes. ‘Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.’ How we present race matters.”
New research conducted by Harvard, Stanford, and the Census Bureau finds that racism has far reaching effects for black boys despite their socioeconomic status in the United States. In most cases, black men earn less than their white peers who were raised in households with comparable income and familial circumstances. The data also concludes that this issue is exclusive to black men as black women with similar financial circumstances to their white peers earn about the same in annual income.
The research cites race bias as the primary reason for this disparity, debunking the notion that class is a deciding factor in economic mobility. Black boys are more likely to be disciplined on all levels from the classroom to the courtroom. Race bias towards black boys insists that they are more prone to violence and the denial of access to wealth is a direct result of that bias.
As professor and director of American University’s Antiracist Research Policy Center, Ibram Kendi, asserts, “One of the most popular liberal post-racial ideas is the idea that the fundamental problem is class and not race, and clearly this study explodes that idea… but for whatever reason, we’re unwilling to stare racism in the face.”
Cox Farms has a history of practicing free speech through their business, a practice that has elicited controversy for the owners’ family. Their recent poster, as detailed in the article’s title, stirred their Northern Virginia town into a frenzy. Aaron Cox-Leow, daughter of the farm’s owner, expressed that, “when it comes to speaking out against systems of oppression and injustice, wwe see it as our moral responsibility to se our position of privilege and power… to engage visibly and actively in the fight for justice.”
Microaggressive behaviors reflect the ways we, as a society, have been conditioned to respond to specific demographics. For example, clutching one’s purse when a person of color enters an empty elevator is a response to our conditioned understanding of men of color as inherently criminal. Implicit bias tests seek to exploit those conditioned responses and use them to uncover our own biases, regardless of gender, race, and other intersections of our identity.
From Barb Lee: “Go, Baptists! If I had not heard this “sermon” myself, I would not have believed that this happened in a Baptist Church in Oklahoma. Bam! Caught in my own biases again. This video is incredible for those of us who grew up in white Southern Baptist churches. This makes me hopeful.”
The title speaks for itself. In an effort to further police people of color, politicians in South Carolina plan to criminalize sagging pants, overlooking the racially loaded implications of instituting such a law. It is a boldface attempt to criminalize citizens based explicitly on their race, though politicians from the area would like to convince us that the law will affect people across races.
From the ACLU: “Arrests stemming from private debt are devastating communities across the country, and amount to a silent financial crisis that, due to longstanding racial and economic inequalities, is disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income communities.” Attached is the full report conducted by the ACLU. Read this article for a synopsis of the report.
Come holiday season, we often brace ourselves as we prepare to step outside of our bubbles and break bread with friends and relatives whose beliefs we find… problematic. This year, we’re seeing this as an opportunity to engage in and model productive dialogue.
Doing this with loved ones can be even harder than doing it with the rest of the world. So, we can think of it as training. [tweetshareinline tweet=”We’re not going to bite our tongues just for the sake of keeping things even-Steven at the dinner table.” username=”PM_Learn”]
If you want to give this a try, we’ve got a few tactics we rely on when we facilitate our workshops. These Guiding Principles help in everyday conversations, too.
And we’re not the only ones who have this on our minds this week. So we’re also providing you with a few resources we’ve come across from some of the writers and organizations we continue to learn from.
We hope this helps and feel free to leave a comment if you think we’ve left anything out!
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
Try to avoid the term “racist.”
Or “sexist,” “homophobe,” etc. This is a hard one because one of these might be the exact term to describe whatever comments you’re hearing from your aunt’s new boyfriend (We even have a film with “Racist” in the title!). And these may be so offensive that the only thing you can do is declare, “That’s racist!” And then walk away. BUT… If you’re hoping to make some headway with a family member you really care about, that’s going to stop the conversation. You may feel some temporary self-satisfaction at calling that person out, but it’s not very effective. Instead, try this…
[tweetshareinline tweet=”Put the responsibility on the other person to explain or justify what they’ve said.” username=”PM_Learn”] This works especially well when someone makes generalizations or stereotypes. These will usually fall apart with just a few critical questions like:
“What makes you say that?”
“When you say, ‘they all…’, who is ‘they’?”
“What in your experience has given you that opinion?”
“Can you tell me a little more about why you said that?”
And if you can muster all your energy to ask these questions with a tone of curiosity, instead of judgment or disgust, they will work that much better. Look, we didn’t say this would be easy!
Don’t try to win an argument.
If, at Thanksgiving dinner, your Uncle Bob has just declared that all men are under attack in the workplace in the midst of all these sexual harassment and assault allegations in the news, you’re probably not going to convince him otherwise that particular evening. Nor will you be able to teach him about the history and continued prevalence of sexism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. So, again, if your intention is to be effective, then start out slowly. Meet him where he is. And ask questions.
When I hear comments like that, I usually try something like, “Interesting (it works to say something validating first!). I’ve heard that perspective, but I don’t quite understand why men would feel that way. Can you help me understand your point?”
Then, “Ok, thanks for that. I have a different take on it. Are you open to hearing an alternative perspective?”
If he says, “Sure,” then you get a turn!
If he says, “No.” Well, then, don’t waste your breath and go pour yourself another glass of wine or have a second helping of pie. You’ll have earned it – you didn’t let the offensive comments go unchecked and you maintained your sanity.
Here’s one other thing I make sure to do in these instances: If my kids have had to hear anything ignorant or offensive, I take some time to have a longer conversation with them.
Repeat the other person’s point.
If you do find yourself engaged in a heated discussion or full-blown argument, you’ll probably feel like the other person isn’t really hearing you (they’ll feel the same way about you, by the way). As a last-ditch effort, try stating the other person’s point in your own words: “Ok, I want to make sure I understand your point. I think what you’re saying is…” Give them time to clarify. Then ask them if they can do the same for you. You will likely both still disagree with one another in that moment, but there’s always a chance that later, when they are on their own and not trying to double down or save face in front of other people (in other words, protecting their ego), you may have planted a seed in their minds.
OK, that’s it – these are the four principles we try to rely on when trying to have productive conversations. Now here are some other resources we’ve found to be really helpful…
“When a tough topic comes up around a table of friends and family, it’s all too easy to take a deep breath and hold it in. Instead of staring down a contentious cousin, it might feel safer to stare at your phone, just to avoid that political debate you’re dreading. But civility and conversation can lead to better relationships, greater creativity and boost the economy.”
Since the release of our documentary film I’m Not Racist… Am I? (INRAI), Point Made Learning (PML) has held more than 400 screenings and workshops across the United States. This antiracism programming engages diverse audiences and helps communities think, learn, and talk, about race and racism in ways they don’t often get a chance to do.
We’ve now developed an additional tool for deepening understanding of the film’s content: TheI’m Not Racist… Am I? Digital Experience). Vassar College is one of the first institutions to license our online course as part of the their INRAI package. Keep reading to learn about how they used the course, the film, and our workshops for a comprehensive first-year orientation program. And send us an email if you’d like to do something similar at your school or organization:email@example.com
The Vassar Screenings
Starting off the 2017 fall semester, several members of Vassar College’s faculty and administration wanted to take the university’s programming on diversity, equity and inclusion to the next level. Vassar already considered itself a progressive institution. But recent race-related issues on campus had highlighted a need for more work on these topics.
Enter I’m Not Racist… Am I?, Point Made Learning’s documentary film and new INRAI Digital Online Course, which Vassar used this October to engage its entire first-year class. Coordinating with several Vassar departments, we coached faculty and administration members on how to facilitate discussions of the film.
Then, we screened the film three separate times for the school’s first-year students. After each screening, we led group Q&A sessions, followed by smaller discussion groups facilitated by Vassar staff. In all, our workshops reached more than 600 students and educators — and they made a lasting impact on campus.
“Because we realized that our students wanted to continue that conversation.”
Vassar conducts a first-year Orientation program which includes a diversity component each year. “This year, we decided to supplement that with this film,” said Associate Dean for Campus Life and Diversity Edward Pittman. “Because we realized that our students wanted to continue that conversation and have more opportunities to explore issues around race, gender, and other identities.”
“We had a large number of students who said, ‘This is great, we need to do more of this.’” Pittman added. “For us, it meant that our students are thinking, were engaged. And that’s exactly what you want a program like this to do — open up dialogue.”
Pittman and Associate Professor and Chair of Drama Shona Tucker and Associate Film Professor Mia Mask, (and other faculty and school departments who came on board) helped bring the film to Vassar. The idea to host the screenings originated when Tucker saw clips from the film at her son’s school and thought Vassar could use the content, too.
[tweetshareinline tweet=”What resources would you bring to your college campus to address issues of race in the community?” username=”PM_Learn”]
“Seeing the responses of the parents and the teachers who were there at my son’s school — and hearing the responses from my 11-year-old — it really hit me in poignant ways,” Tucker said. “So I thought, ‘This would really go well at Vassar,’ because Vassar had been having some serious racial disturbances on campus. So I started talking to Mia (Mask), and the deans, and anybody who would listen, really, saying, ‘We ought to bring this to Vassar College.’”
“We felt we needed a trial run with students,” she said, “so we did a screening for 30 students from all different backgrounds, and the students were, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah — this film should be shown!’ And then the discussion was, ‘when should it be shown, and to whom,’ and it was decided that freshman would be the ideal start.”
The planning team chose first-years as their target audience because the film screenings could tie in to the existing Orientation programming. They also wanted to reach first-years because, as the newest students on campus — many of them may be inexperienced in dealing with these issues. And they have four years ahead of them for continued education and exploration.
It took the planning committee almost two years to make the screenings a reality. First, they had to clear the hurdles of administrative and financial red tape. Once they got through that, however, they agreed the effort was worth it.
“I was surprised it went so smoothly”
“I was surprised that it went so smoothly,” said Mask. “All of our screenings, our post-screening discussions, all of the breakout groups — all of that went as planned, and we were delighted.”
“After the film, so many students were standing up and offering honest, open revelations about their experience,” she said. “And we were really happy to see that. It’s been two years in the planning. It took so much to bring it to fruition, and it all just went off so well. For the vast majority of students, my sense is that this can be a positive catalyst for change.”
“It opened up a channel of conversation”
One student who attended the screenings, Chloe Crawford, agreed. “My group of friends, we’ve been having race-related discussions at lunches and dinners the past few weeks, and that’s because of the film,” she said. “My friend group is fairly white, except for myself and two other people of color. I think it’s great, honestly, that as a group we can have these discussions … I think it opened up a channel of conversation amongst us.”
For Crawford, this was an important starting point for what she hopes will be an ongoing discussion that she and her classmates will have the rest of their college careers. And into their adult lives. One thing she emphasized was the film’s ability to create a safe space for people of color to come forward with thoughts and feelings that they may have shied away from expressing in the past.
“After the film, so many students were standing up and offering open, honest revelations about their experience. For the vast majority of students, my sense is that this can be a positive catalyst for change.”
“I think that the discussions afterwards facilitated by staff members seemed to allow for some of the people of color on campus to finally be able to speak in front of white students,” she said, “and not be seen that they were in the wrong, or be perceived that they were over-emotional or aggressive. So I thought that was empowering.”
In the future, Crawford suggested that Vassar consider showing the film to all students. Pittman acknowledged that’s something that’s already on their radar.
“Next semester, we’re thinking of showing I’m Not Racist… Am I? to sophomores, juniors, and seniors,” he said, “because they heard about the freshmen seeing it, and they said, ‘Why don’t we get to see it?’”
In our interviews with Tucker, Mask, Pittman and Crawford, we discussed the steps they went through to actually make these screenings happen. Here are some of the highlights from our Q&A’s.
PML: You used our I’m Not Racist… Am I? Digital Online Course to introduce faculty to the film and prep them for facilitating discussions with the students. How was your experience with our online learning modules?
Mia Mask: “The online modules are ideal for people who are actually committed to doing more. I think you need to watch the entire film once straight-through, and then the modules help you unpack the film afterward.”
Ed Pittman: “Everything that I saw in the modules — and what I’m hearing from faculty and administrators — is that it’s very helpful. I’ve received nothing but positive feedback.”
“Know your audience.”
PML: What advice do you have for other people who want to hold similar events? Say, your top 3 tips …
Shona Tucker: “One: Do as Ed had us do — meet, and meet. I thought meeting and meeting was going to be a real pain in the butt, but it actually kept the channels of communication clear. We knew who was supposed to do what.
“Two: The pilot program was not a bad idea, but know who you’re going to show it to.
“Three: Be prepared to have several follow-up conversations — not just immediately afterwards, but weeks afterwards as well to learn more about what’s happening.”
Mia Mask: “One: Know your audience.
“Two: Build a community of folks who want to work on this project with you — a good planning group or committee, that’s very important.
“Three: Make sure to follow up and follow through, because this film can be a great catalyst for change if you do your follow-up work.”
PML:Did our programming meet your objectives?
Ed Pittman: “Our objectives were to introduce a conversation that some students have had, but others haven’t had that opportunity, and to have a challenging dialogue.
“The other day, a student emailed me saying, ‘I want to meet with you to discuss the movie.’ And we met and talked about a question he had that he had been discussing with one of his friends. That’s indicative of what’s out there. I know that the students are ruminating on the content of the movie, and that’s what we wanted to happen.”
“Whether people like the film or not, it creates discussion.”
PML: What’s the value of I’m Not Racist… Am I? And would you recommend that other universities and organizations screenit?
Chloe Crawford: “The value of the film is that it creates discussion. Whether people like the film or not, it creates discussion. And I would recommend that other universities screen it. I think Vassar tries really hard to open conversations on these issues. But I have friends at other schools that say things are really segregated there, and there are issues of violence against people of color. So it would be extremely important on those campuses.”
“It raised a lot of questions for our students”
PML: What do you see as the long-term impact of this programming, and how does it fit into your overall strategy?
Ed Pittman: “I think the long-term impact is that it raised a lot of questions for our students. And I would like to see those students enroll in some of our coursework that addresses these issues. Or to attend lectures on campus around these subjects. It also raised the question of what more we can do beyond orientation, in a substantive way, for our students. For the first year, second year, third year, fourth year, it’s, ‘OK, now we’ve done this. What’s the next step?’ And that’s a good thing.”
“We need the tools, we need the skills, and we need the training.”
PML: Why is hosting events like this one important? Why did you do it?
Mia Mask: “We worked on this for two years because of what’s happening in our nation, and because of our national history. Because issues of structural inequality are omnipresent at every moment, at every juncture. Whether we’re talking about mass incarceration, college admissions and affirmative action … it’s clear across our society that we need healthier dialogue on race, racial difference, and structural inequality. We need the tools, we need the skills, and we need the training to talk about these issues.”
Bring INRAI to Your Institution
If you are interested in hosting a Point Made Learning film screening or workshop, please send us an email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, check out our new I’m Not Racist… Am I?Digital Online Course — a valuable program for corporations and individuals who want to Look Deeper into race, racism, and bias.
About Point Made Learning
Point Made Learning is the consulting and programming extension of Point Made Films, a production company focused on telling stories about the many layers of American identity. We use documentary film to facilitate productive discussions around the most uncomfortable topics we face in American society – starting with racism. We’ve taken an innovative approach to raising awareness and organizing communities through our unique combination of storytelling, real talk, and digital tools. We tell true stories and teach powerful lessons about issues that matter.