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Mod. 4 Activity - Caucusing & Affinity Groups

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

For a race-based caucus that you would be facilitating, please create a sample agenda. First choose the specific identity for the caucus. Then curate a selection of resources that people should review/reflect on in advance, what are the prompts during the caucus discussion, and are there any materials to review afterwards.


White Caucus - Characteristics of White Supremacy

Date: Monday, September 26, 2022 - 11:00am - 12:00pm

Facilitator: Ben Newman

Resource(s)/Reading(s): Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture by Tema Okun


Agenda

11:00 - Arrival and Check-in

  • Share your name, pronouns, any needs you have or feel the group should be aware of.

  • With one word, share an area, feeling or subject that you’re thinking about lately.

  • Agenda Overview

11:05 - Revisit White Caucus Agreements (Placed where everyone in the group can see)


WHITE CAUCUS AGREEMENTS

  • Be present - limit distractions and other work.

  • Practice equity by sharing the floor.

  • Recognize listening as an active form of engagement.

  • Assume good intentions, but acknowledge impact.

  • What’s learned here leaves here; what’s said here stays here. (Get permission to tell someone else’s story.)

  • Engage openly and honestly, practice vulnerability and authenticity as much as possible.

  • Strive for intellectual humility. Be willing to grapple with challenging ideas. Hold your opinions lightly.

  • If you think, “I already know this,” ask yourself: “How can I take this deeper? What new insight or application can I find?”

  • Recognize how your social location (e.g., race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability) informs your perspectives and reactions.

  • Notice your own defensive reactions and attempt to use these reactions as entry points for gaining deeper self-knowledge, use curiosity as a tool.

  • Differentiate between safety and comfort. Accept discomfort as necessary for anti-racist, anti-oppressive growth.

  • Maintain awareness of natural or imposed power dynamics and imbalances.

  • Celebrate that no one knows everything, but together we know lots. The facilitator(s) for this space are your peers, not anti-racism/anti-oppression experts.

  • Don’t expect closure. We are engaging in ongoing, lifelong work.

11:10 - Why are we here?

  • To learn. To realize our role in oppression (whether intentional or not). To make mistakes. To be vulnerable. To be more prepared to work in multicultural and multiracial spaces.

11:15 - Opening Thoughts

  • What feelings come up when you hear the term “White Supremacy”?

  • Is it something you’ve ever thought about or discussed before?

  • Imagine what it might be like to exist in America as a person of color.

11:25 - Small Group Discussion

  • Which of these characteristics do you see within your own work ethic? (Pick 1 or 2)

  • Why do you think those characteristics appear in your work?

  • How could you create means of operating that would shift away from and unlearn those characteristics?

11:40 - Full Group Insights/Discussion

  • What elements or themes are shared by the group?

  • Were there any recurring themes or areas that the group really latched onto?

  • Does the group need more time and space to talk through a specific theme or area?

11:55 - Wrap up and Next Session

  • Spend some time between now and our next meeting reflecting on the areas we discussed and Tema Okun’s proposed antidotes. If possible, try applying an antidote in your work and share with the group at the next meeting.

11:59 - Thank You!

 

Complete a pre-mortem exercise to accompany introducing caucusing into your workplace. (For the purposes of this exercise, if you already have active caucuses or affinity groups assume that you do not.) Complete a list of the things that could go wrong and choose the (3) most likely items to more fully detail what you would do to address them if/when they occur.


Pre-Mortem planning

  1. Preparation - As soon as goals and plans are introduced, start the pre-mortem process.

  2. Imagine a disaster - Be dramatic and think of anything and everything.

  3. Generate Reasons for Failure - Individual work writing on post-its. Better than sharing and talking.

  4. Consolidate the lists - Put all the post-its into distinct groups.

  5. Revisit the plan - Begin to prioritize how to address areas of concern in the plan.

What could go wrong?

  • Leadership doesn’t see the value or need for a White Caucus.

  • Leadership actively prevents you from creating the White Caucus.

  • It gets approved but no one signs up or shows up.

  • My efforts to facilitate the group fail.

  • The group loses focus on the purpose of the White Caucus and becomes a bitch fest.

3 ways to address what could go wrong

  • Take the group outside of the workplace and meet outside of regular work hours.

  • Individually canvas to colleagues through personal interaction and generate connection.

  • Find another colleague willing to support your facilitation efforts as a member of the group.

 

Review the antidotes section of Tema Okun’s Characteristics of White Supremacy CultureLinks to an external site. piece. What 5 antidotes can you introduce at your workplace that can support the introduction of caucus conversations, especially if your organization chooses not to adopt the formal framework?


White Supremacy Characteristics White Supremacy Antidotes

  1. Perfectionism 1. Appreciation, Separate person from mistake

  2. Worship of the Written Word 2. Create different ways to intake and share info

  3. Only 1 Right Way 3. Acceptance of many ways to realize the goal

  4. Power Hoarding 4. Power Sharing - Lead by Example

  5. Objectivity 5. Recognize the value in different worldviews

I chose these five characteristics of White Supremacy drawing from my professional work experiences and conversations with colleagues. Of all of the characteristics of White Supremacy, these five are more common or relatable as an expression of corporate culture that could be ascribed to capitalism or perhaps leadership style, rather than White Supremacy, especially in comparison to characteristics like Defensiveness and Right to Comfort, which look more closely at the role of the individual, rather than the environment or inherited system of values. By beginning with these more common characteristics, I believe the potential for finding support among peers increases that would allow for the more challenging characteristics to be introduced later on.


Similarly, if my organization is unsupportive of adopting a formal caucusing or affinity group framework, I can begin to employ these five characteristics personally as a reflection of my commitment to leading by example as part of the antidote to Power Hoarding. Similarly, I can personally show appreciation for my colleagues, facilitate meetings that allow for different perspectives and pathways for reaching the goal to be shared. This effort simultaneously recognizes the value of different worldviews and lived experiences and can be a gateway into creating a more diverse communication flow among the group that minimizes the worship of the written word and begins to create new systems for information intake and sharing.

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