Resources on Decolonizing and Racial Justice

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Editor’s note:  We are using the term “Decolonization” to mean the pursuit of liberation, reclaiming mind and heart from the legacy of colonialism, i.e. personal, interpersonal, and institutional domination over people and the natural world. This process demands that we acknowledge historic and ongoing traumas from colonization, genocide, white supremacy, and systemic racism.  It requires actions accountable to People of Color by creating and securing structural changes that insure equity and right relationship.

Suggestions and notations from members of the Conscious Elders Network Social Justice team: Lynne Isler (LI), Ronni Joy (RJ), Kate Gilbert (KG), Grady McGonagill (GM), Pat Hoertdoerfer (PH).  Also from Aravinda Ananda (AA) and Jim Brown (JB).
Amazing and deep first person story about understanding white wounding and how it contributes to white supremacy. (BG)

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack — by Peggy McIntosh. This article clarifies what white privilege is about at the simplest level it is brief, and very to the point.  (LI)

Why It is So hard to Talk to White People About racism,
Suggested by friend who does training on Whites Confronting Racism  (LI)

4 Ways to Push Back Against Your Privilege — Mia McKenzie
A bit “in your face” but may be of interest    (LI)

Addressing Shame as White Racial Justice Advocate — Hackman Group
A very interesting article about white shame.  (LI)

On Racism and White Privilege — Teaching Tolerance  (LI)

The Cloak I Was Offering Them Was Identification with My Whiteness–by Kate Riffle Roper

History in the Making at Standing Rock — by Paul Levy. This essay sums up some indisputable truths about our world and the archetypal forces that are threatening its beauty and integrity, as exemplified by the indigenous Water Protectors at Standing Rock and the militarized response from the government and the corporation constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline. (JB)

How to Support Standing Rock and Confront What It Means to Live on Stolen Land – by Berkley Carnine and Liza Minno Bloom, Waging Nonviolence.
As support for those at Standing Rock grows, it is important that allies also confront the fundamental questions of what it means to live on stolen land and how to transform colonial relations in a way that creates a viable and just future for all communities and the planet. (TruthOut)

The United States has still not acknowledged it committed genocide against indigenous-peoples – by Mark Karlin.
Historians Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker discuss how genocide is integral to the structure of settler colonialism, which seeks to replace Indigenous peoples with settlers. Those who settled the US intentionally killed and displaced Native communities en masse. (TruthOut)

East Bay Meditation Center.  Talks and writings by many teachers on diversity.  Conversation link: (KG)

16 Books about Race that Every White Person Should Read  (GM)

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. This is an account of United States history that tells the history of this country with respect to indigenous peoples. It is a very different account than offered in typical public school history classes. It should be required reading for all US citizens, as it tells the truth of how settler colonialism played out with violence, theft, lies and genocide of first nations. This history has not ended. Disrespect of native peoples continues in present time, as have US wars of aggression followed a similar pattern. (AA)

‘All the Real Indians Died Off’ And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. In this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker unpack the 21 most common misconceptions about Native Americans. From the myth that “Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims” to the lie that “Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich,” this book challenges us to rethink the history we’ve been taught. (TruthOut)

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  A powerful analysis of USA History, in particular how the old Jim Crow racism, which came under fire and suffered defeats at the hands of  the Civil Rights and Black Liberation struggles in the 50s and 60s, has morphed and risen again in recent decades. Alexander describes Jim Crow arising in new ways that have devastated communities of color, particularly the criminalization of African Americans and mass incarceration of People of Color.  She writes of the need for a revolution in consciousness as primary in healing the wounds of racism. This book shook my world and helped me to see with new eyes.   A discussion guide is available from UUA. (KG)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. With this book, Coates writes a moving letter to his 15-year old African American son and is so generous as to share it with the rest of us. With this book, he paints a picture of his life as a black man and reveals in detail the pain of being black in America by describing the pain black bodies feel, the fear African American parents feel for their children, and by giving a personal connection to  police killings with the recounting of the murder of a black college friend by police. With literary grace, he reveals the Dream of this country that has kept it entrapped in white supremacy. (AA)

A Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates is an essay on how property and home ownership have been an arena of privilege and oppression throughout the history of the country. I never knew that the GI Bill used by my parents to buy a house after WWII was denied to African Americans and People of Color who served in the war. This history provides background for the present gentrification and displacement of people in the US.   The book helped me look with new eyes at global displacement, and aspects of the global crises of refugees and migration.  (KG)

What Does It Mean to Be White by Robin DiAngelo
This is the clearest, most compassionate and practically helpful writing I’ve found on what it means to be white in the US.  Institutionalized racism, white privilege, and massive social conditioning that denies racism exists all make it difficult for white people to see what is actually happening.  I found this book helpful in dealing constructively with feelings of guilt and shame that can arise when those of us who are white begin to awaken and see with new eyes the reality of our society and our place in it. It is written from the perspective of strengthening people to become active agents of change in consciousness and in the outer world.  (KG)

The Way of Tenderness by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel  
Z. E. Manuel  is a Zen Buddhist priest who is African American and  identifies as lesbian bisexual. I keep coming back to this book as one that brings spirit, our particular embodiment in terms of race and gender, and social consciousness and action together in a way I’ve never found elsewhere. Manuel teaches from her own life experience how our particular embodiment–how we come into this life, our race, class, gender, sexuality, whether we are able of body and mind or abled differently–constitutes the particular fire that we must walk through, our path. It is not an identity to be transcended as a hinderance on the way to enlightenment or liberation; rather it is our own precious doorway of experience to greater awareness.   It is a doorway that may put us on the receiving end of sometimes deadly discrimination and oppression in one or many ways. At the same time, our embodiment may privilege us in other ways.  Our embodiment gives us particular jobs to do and gifts to bring toward the liberation of all humanity.  She teaches that we are nature.  We come from the same source and we all are a beautiful multiplicity in the Oneness that already and always exists.   (KG)

Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams and Lama Rod Owens, with contributions from Jasmine Syedullah, PhD. (North Atlantic Books, 2016)  This extraordinary jewel of a book explores the authors’ journey – three queer POC dharma teachers and practitioners – in inviting the American Buddhist community to explore how racism and other forms of oppression are showing up within their community, and to transform that.  The authors’ self-proclaimed intent with Radical Dharma was to “ignite a much-needed conversation about the legacy of racial and structural injustice, both in self-identified dharma communities and in the United States, to move its people, together, toward healing and liberation.” (AA)  See Aravinda’s reflections on this book here.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson.   This highly researched book tells of the exodus that would lead about six million African-Americans to abandon the states of the Old Confederacy between 1915 and 1970 to escape the horrors of Jim Crow laws and lynchings after Reconstruction.  Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, the book is  a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet  immensely readable.  Wilkerson follows the journey of three Southern blacks, each representing a different decade of the Great Migration as well as a different destination. This allows her to highlight two issues often overlooked: first, that the exodus was a continuous phenomenon spanning six decades of American life; second, that it consisted of not one, but rather three geographical streams, the patterns determined by the train routes available to those bold enough to leave.  (from a New York Times review)

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific  Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Milkweed Editions, 2013).  As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer asks questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces indigenous teachings that consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. (From book cover)

 Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014, Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House) . Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, has dedicated his legal career to defending those who are trapped by an often capricious, political, and willfully unjust criminal justice system – poor people, people of color, children, and others over whom the system has run roughshod. It speaks to justice, mercy, and compassion, themes of concern to us as elders, members of CEN and as human beings.  A discussion guide (PDF, 20 pages) is available from UUA with plans for one session or three sessions, with optional slides to accompany the discussion guide.  (PH)

In Behind the Kitchen Door (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013), author Saru Jayaraman reveals how restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America and how poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens—affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables. The author, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, tells the stories of ten restaurant workers in cities across the United States as she explores the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out: What’s at stake when we choose a restaurant is not only our own health or “foodie” experience but also the health and well-being of the second largest private sector workforce—10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring passion, tenacity, and insight into the American dining experience. A discussion guide is available from UUA.  (PH)

Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society
Article: Decolonization is not a Metaphor by Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang Vol 1. Number 1 (2012)

Abstract: Our goal in this article is to remind readers what is unsettling about decolonization. Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. The easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to “decolonize our schools,” or use “decolonizing methods,” or, “decolonize student thinking”, turns decolonization into a metaphor. As important as their goals may be, social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches that decenter settler perspectives have objectives that may be incommensurable with decolonization. Because settler colonialism is built upon an entangled triad structure of settler-native-slave, the decolonial desires of white, non-white, immigrant, postcolonial, and oppressed people, can similarly be entangled in resettlement, reoccupation, and reinhabitation that actually further settler colonialism. The metaphorization of decolonization makes possible a set of evasions, or “settler moves to innocence”, that problematically attempt to reconcile settler guilt and complicity, and rescue settler futurity. In this article, we analyze multiple settler moves towards innocence in order to forward “an ethic of incommensurability” that recognizes what is distinct and what is sovereign for project(s) of decolonization in relation to human and civil rights based social justice projects. We also point to unsettling themes within transnational/Third World decolonizations, abolition, and critical space-place pedagogies, which challenge the coalescence of social justice endeavors, making room for more meaningful potential alliances.

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