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Social Justice Dialogue: Race & Justice in America

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Work at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is undertaken with the goals of informing change makers, amending attitudes, and shaping a more just world for women, girls, their communities, and families. The interdisciplinary team of scholars, administrators, and advisors who ensure that WCW’s mission moves forward is informed by their own research and lived experiences. The Women Change Worlds blog allows us to share our perspectives, as well as to create opportunities for our community to engage with us. Today we invite you to participate in our inaugural Social Justice Dialogue. Responding to critical issues in the world and teachable moments, these Dialogues can broaden all our perspectives.

We invite you to share links to one or two articles, news stories, essays, or other resources that you believe may contribute to a productive dialogue on Race and Justice in America, specifically as it relates to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.

The first link that I’m sharing is from The Huffington Post. It’s a conversation between two mothers who reflect on Race following the verdict.

blogpullquoteRaceJusticeAmericaDonna Ford, Ph.D. of Vanderbilt University, the author of Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education, and a mother, grandmother, and advocate for racial justice, asserts that Trayvon Martin was murdered because he was Black and male—the “most stereotyped and feared group in America.” Patricia Leavy, Ph.D., author of American Circumstance and Fiction as Research Practice, connects racism in the case with sexism in the courts when she reflects that Trayvon Martin was being tried for his own murder just as female “rape victims are often further victimized in legal proceedings” and blamed for the violence against them.

The writers share, "As scholars, we see this as an on-going teaching and potent teachable moment. As mothers, we see it as imperative to harness this moment and to raise our children to appreciate, respect, and not stereotype or fear those from other racial or cultural groups."

Here is the article: An Honest Heartfelt Dialogue about Race between Two Mothers: What Can America Learn about Race Post Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?

My second link is from Morning Edition which featured a story by Shankar Vendantam, a science correspondent for National Public Radio, focused on the theory that “racial disparities and other biased outcomes in the criminal justice system, in medicine and in professional settings can be explained by unconscious attitudes and stereotypes.”

In May, findings were released from a comparative investigation of 18 interventions aimed at reducing implicit racial biases. The researchers found that most effective interventions were those “that invoked high self-involvement or linked Black people with positivity and White people with negativity.” The interventions that were least effective engaged participants with others’ perspectives, asked them to consider egalitarian values, or induced a positive emotion. I think how such exercises are facilitated is key to their success.

Here is a link to this story: How to Fight Racial Bias When It's Silent and Subtle

What articles, news stories, essays, or other resources do you think may contribute to a productive dialogue about Race and Justice in America today? Please share in the Comment box below.

Donna Tambascio is the Deputy Director for Communications and External Relations at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

 

Comments 7

Guest - Grace Hwang Lynch on Friday, 19 July 2013 13:31

Of course, Peggy McIntosh's essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" is a great starting point for any discussion about race in America.

I'm also going to share an article I recently wrote, encouraging parents to not be afraid of talking to their kids about race and discuss racial differences frankly and without bias, as soon as toddlers begin to ask questions or make comments. http://www.themotherco.com/2013/07/why-you-need-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-race/

Of course, Peggy McIntosh's essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" is a great starting point for any discussion about race in America. I'm also going to share an article I recently wrote, encouraging parents to not be afraid of talking to their kids about race and discuss racial differences frankly and without bias, as soon as toddlers begin to ask questions or make comments. http://www.themotherco.com/2013/07/why-you-need-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-race/
Guest - Aisha Sultan on Friday, 19 July 2013 13:45
I wrote this piece: What to tell our children about the Zimmerman verdict. I am a parenting columnist. http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/relationships-and-special-occasions/parenting/aisha-sultan/what-to-tell-our-children-about-the-zimmerman-verdict/article_5ae3f9e0-7397-57d9-9d83-4090b49c0479.html
Guest - Frances Kai-Hwa Wang on Friday, 19 July 2013 16:48

My article in Chicago is the World about mothers and sons: Justice for Trayvon, Justice for all our children. "I wish I were surprised by the verdict, but my heart is breaking... How do we raise our sweet children of color? What do we tell them? What do we tell ourselves?" ‬ http://chicagoistheworld.org/2013/07/justice-for-trayvon-justice-for-all-our-children/

Also, an earlier article, referenced in it, Lessons I do not want to teach my children–about Dharun Ravi, Trayvon Martin, Shaima Alawadi: "I am not only trying to prevent trouble they might encounter, I am also secretly preparing them for the court battle that would follow." http://chicagoistheworld.org/2012/03/lessons-i-do-not-want-to-teach-my-children-about-dharun-ravi-trayvon-martin-shaima-

My article in Chicago is the World about mothers and sons: Justice for Trayvon, Justice for all our children. "I wish I were surprised by the verdict, but my heart is breaking... How do we raise our sweet children of color? What do we tell them? What do we tell ourselves?" ‬ http://chicagoistheworld.org/2013/07/justice-for-trayvon-justice-for-all-our-children/ Also, an earlier article, referenced in it, Lessons I do not want to teach my children–about Dharun Ravi, Trayvon Martin, Shaima Alawadi: "I am not only trying to prevent trouble they might encounter, I am also secretly preparing them for the court battle that would follow." http://chicagoistheworld.org/2012/03/lessons-i-do-not-want-to-teach-my-children-about-dharun-ravi-trayvon-martin-shaima-
Tamara L. DeGray on Friday, 19 July 2013 16:51

Before we begin specifically discussing Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, it's important we're on the same page regarding individual and institutional racism. To that end, Abagond's Racism 101 is a wonderful starting point for any dialogue on race.
http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/racism-101/

Before we begin specifically discussing Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, it's important we're on the same page regarding individual and institutional racism. To that end, Abagond's Racism 101 is a wonderful starting point for any dialogue on race. http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/racism-101/
WCW admin on Saturday, 20 July 2013 23:12

For me, the slaying of Trayvon Martin, as for so many others, represents an act of unspeakable terror. When two of my students, Ashley and Jerome, asked me to speak to the “care of the soul in this world” at a memorial Vigil organized by the Deltas, the Alphas and the local chapter of the National Black Law Students Association, I staggered under the spiritual magnitude of what they asked, struggling with what to say in the allotted five minutes and an awareness of their sacred trust and the preciousness of time.
In writing, I recalled two poems: Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Children of the Poor” and Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day.” I recalled Trayvon’s “one wild and precious life” cut down so soon and Brooks’ question, “And shall I prime my children, pray, to pray?” Many people have asked for these words, even people who were not at the rally, people who are strangers to me. Sermons have been built from these words. Here they are again, a primer to prayer for the children of the cosmos in a time like none other. My hope is that they will offer direction, comfort and guidance in an ever-widening circle. May it be so.

At the W&M Trayvon Martin Vigil, March 27, 2012: Devotional Advices for the Care of the Soul in This World
“And shall I prime my children, pray, to pray?” Gwendolyn Brooks
Remember that the struggle is long, and that taking care of the soul in this life begins with thought and attitude and the care of your mortal frame, for, in this life, the body is the dwelling place of the spirit.

Practice Gratitude. Every day that you open your eyes give thanks for your eyes, your hands, your feet, your heart.

Know that you are not alone. You stand in covenantal relationship with those who have gone before. No matter how alone you feel, you have membership in an intergenerational community that seeks justice, humanity and wholeness for all people. You are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses,” the living and the dead.

Know yourself. Be the person that you profess yourself to be; make your actions consistent with your words.

Seek the company of persons who know you to be the person that you profess yourself to be; build community among them.

Live ethically, no matter what others around you are doing. Practice kindness universally, yet still be steadfast in the quest for justice.

Listen deeply. Listen to the stories of others. Really hear what they have to say.

Practice compassion, beginning with yourself. Don’t be afraid to apologize. Practice the art of apology as a spiritual discipline.

Take care of your bodies. Exercise. Practice “mindful eating” so that others may eat. Get enough sleep. Sleep regulates a number of bodily functions, and lessens stress.

Pause for reflection. Ask, “Am I living a life that honors the community that raised me? Am I listening to the wisdom of the elders?”

Seek beauty. Engage with art that reflects “your one wild and precious life.” If there are no images that reflect your beauty in your university museum, find the next museum down the road. Borrow books about African art from the library. Spend long hours looking at African masks. Be the mask when necessary.

Spend time caring for an older person; be a blessing, receive a blessing.

Adopt a contemplative practice. If you pray, try a new prayer form like lectio divina or the four stranded garland. If you meditate, try walking meditation.

Breathe, always breathe, remembering that breath is life. When you feel stressed, and can’t think, drop your shoulders and take three deep breaths. And keep breathing. Remember that taking care of your soul in this world begins with breath.

Joanne Braxton
March 27, 2012

Dr. Joanne M. Braxton (aka Jodi Braxton), author of Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition (1989) and other books, is a graduate of Yale University, the Pacific School of Religion, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She teaches Literature, Creative Writing and Africana Studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dr. Braxton serves as Associate Interfaith Chaplain for the William and Mary Canterbury Association and holds authorized ministerial standing in the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ.

For me, the slaying of Trayvon Martin, as for so many others, represents an act of unspeakable terror. When two of my students, Ashley and Jerome, asked me to speak to the “care of the soul in this world” at a memorial Vigil organized by the Deltas, the Alphas and the local chapter of the National Black Law Students Association, I staggered under the spiritual magnitude of what they asked, struggling with what to say in the allotted five minutes and an awareness of their sacred trust and the preciousness of time. In writing, I recalled two poems: Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Children of the Poor” and Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day.” I recalled Trayvon’s “one wild and precious life” cut down so soon and Brooks’ question, “And shall I prime my children, pray, to pray?” Many people have asked for these words, even people who were not at the rally, people who are strangers to me. Sermons have been built from these words. Here they are again, a primer to prayer for the children of the cosmos in a time like none other. My hope is that they will offer direction, comfort and guidance in an ever-widening circle. May it be so. At the W&M Trayvon Martin Vigil, March 27, 2012: Devotional Advices for the Care of the Soul in This World “And shall I prime my children, pray, to pray?” Gwendolyn Brooks Remember that the struggle is long, and that taking care of the soul in this life begins with thought and attitude and the care of your mortal frame, for, in this life, the body is the dwelling place of the spirit. Practice Gratitude. Every day that you open your eyes give thanks for your eyes, your hands, your feet, your heart. Know that you are not alone. You stand in covenantal relationship with those who have gone before. No matter how alone you feel, you have membership in an intergenerational community that seeks justice, humanity and wholeness for all people. You are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses,” the living and the dead. Know yourself. Be the person that you profess yourself to be; make your actions consistent with your words. Seek the company of persons who know you to be the person that you profess yourself to be; build community among them. Live ethically, no matter what others around you are doing. Practice kindness universally, yet still be steadfast in the quest for justice. Listen deeply. Listen to the stories of others. Really hear what they have to say. Practice compassion, beginning with yourself. Don’t be afraid to apologize. Practice the art of apology as a spiritual discipline. Take care of your bodies. Exercise. Practice “mindful eating” so that others may eat. Get enough sleep. Sleep regulates a number of bodily functions, and lessens stress. Pause for reflection. Ask, “Am I living a life that honors the community that raised me? Am I listening to the wisdom of the elders?” Seek beauty. Engage with art that reflects “your one wild and precious life.” If there are no images that reflect your beauty in your university museum, find the next museum down the road. Borrow books about African art from the library. Spend long hours looking at African masks. Be the mask when necessary. Spend time caring for an older person; be a blessing, receive a blessing. Adopt a contemplative practice. If you pray, try a new prayer form like lectio divina or the four stranded garland. If you meditate, try walking meditation. Breathe, always breathe, remembering that breath is life. When you feel stressed, and can’t think, drop your shoulders and take three deep breaths. And keep breathing. Remember that taking care of your soul in this world begins with breath. Joanne Braxton March 27, 2012 Dr. Joanne M. Braxton (aka Jodi Braxton), author of Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition (1989) and other books, is a graduate of Yale University, the Pacific School of Religion, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She teaches Literature, Creative Writing and Africana Studies at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dr. Braxton serves as Associate Interfaith Chaplain for the William and Mary Canterbury Association and holds authorized ministerial standing in the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Karen Lachance on Tuesday, 23 July 2013 09:52

As a white woman this really made me think about assumptions I make about myself and others both consciously and unconsciously. I originally saw the piece on the School's Out Washington Facebook page. http://www.wpcjournal.com/article/view/11842/8081 "A poem for my white friends"

As a white woman this really made me think about assumptions I make about myself and others both consciously and unconsciously. I originally saw the piece on the School's Out Washington Facebook page. http://www.wpcjournal.com/article/view/11842/8081 "A poem for my white friends"
Mike Otterman on Monday, 29 July 2013 14:56

Hi there! My name is Mike Otterman, the Program Manager of Men Advocating Real Change, http://www.onthemarc.org, a Catalyst initiative to amplify male champions of gender equality. Three of our bloggers wrote about Trayvon through the lens of gender and race in America today. Here are some sneak peaks, enjoy!

"As I keep looking into this tragedy, I am struck by the masculinity of it all," says Martin Davidson.
Trayvon And Zimmerman—What It Means To Be A Man, 7/18/13
http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/199

"Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie and stood his ground, therefore he deserved what happened to him?" asks Michael Kimmel.
On Hoodies, Miniskirts And Equality, 7/16/13
http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/198

“To invoke colorblindness,” says Bill Proudman, “becomes the ultimate white privilege.”
Bewildered At The Intersection Of Colorblind And “OTHERness,” 7/19/13
http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/200

Hi there! My name is Mike Otterman, the Program Manager of Men Advocating Real Change, www.onthemarc.org, a Catalyst initiative to amplify male champions of gender equality. Three of our bloggers wrote about Trayvon through the lens of gender and race in America today. Here are some sneak peaks, enjoy! "As I keep looking into this tragedy, I am struck by the masculinity of it all," says Martin Davidson. Trayvon And Zimmerman—What It Means To Be A Man, 7/18/13 http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/199 "Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie and stood his ground, therefore he deserved what happened to him?" asks Michael Kimmel. On Hoodies, Miniskirts And Equality, 7/16/13 http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/198 “To invoke colorblindness,” says Bill Proudman, “becomes the ultimate white privilege.” Bewildered At The Intersection Of Colorblind And “OTHERness,” 7/19/13 http://onthemarc.org/blogs/22/200
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