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Welcome to the July 2015 issue of the Hackman Consulting Group e-newsletter! We've got a packed issue this month, so without further ado, here's a quick overview of all the info in this month's e-news:
  • Upcoming Presentations - where to find HCG trainers over the next few months - watch for Heather and Stephen in Washington State, Colorado, and (of course!) Minnesota!
  • Conferences and Events - including the annual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, hosted in Minneapolis this year.
  • Book Reviews - in this issue, Heather reviews "Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race." 
  • Training Tidbits - this month, Heather starts a series of notes on "Training Traps for Dominant Group Members."
  • Climate Change Corner - Read on for reflections on Pope Francis' recent encyclical.
  • Blog Updates - If you haven't seen them yet, here's where you'll find links to HCG's most recent blog posts!
Wherever you are this month, we hope that you too are finding opportunities to learn, connect, and challenge yourself and others in the service of equity and justice.
 
- Kate Eubank, HCG Associate
 

For those of you who are new to the list, this newsletter is meant to highlight some of the work we are doing at HCG, but it is also meant to be responsive to folks reading it. So if there is information you would like HCG to consider sharing in the newsletter (like great conferences you want announced), training questions you would like addressed, or other resources and content you think would be helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@hackmanconsultingggroup.org.

Upcoming Presentations

Curious about what HCG consultants and friends are up to these days? To save on length, we're listing just the vital details of upcoming HCG events, trainings and presentations below. For more details on any of these be sure to check out the “Upcoming Events” page on our website!

Healthiest State Summit: Structural Racism (Breakout Session)
August 6, 2015
University of Minnesota Continuing Education and Conference Center
HCG presenter: Stephen Nelson


West Metro Education Project Racial Justice Training Series (Session 1)
August 3, 2015
Minnetonka, MN
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman

Residential Education Keynote & Trainings
August 13, 2015
University of Dayton
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
King County 7th Annual Domestic Violence Symposium Keynote
September 11, 2015
Seattle, WA
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Climate Change Mind Set Training: Why a Critical Racial Justice Mindset is Essential for Effective Climate Justice
September 12, 2015
Seattle, WA
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Calling Out the Wizard Behind the Curtain Training: A Personal and Organizational Exploration of the Role of Whiteness in Fomenting Climate Disruption and of Racial Justice in Guiding Us Through It
September 14, 2015
Seattle, WA
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Campus Keynote
September 29, 2015
University of Colorado at Boulder
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Campus Keynote
October 1, 2015
Colorado State University
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Race, Racism and Whiteness Training (part 1 of 3)
October 3, 2015
First Universalist Church of Minneapolis
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Deepening the Conversation: Making the Connections Between Social Justice and Sustainability
October 26, 2015
American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference (Minneapolis, MN)
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman
 
Building a Sustainable Campus Together: Concrete Steps for Bridging the Faculty / Staff Divide
October 26, 2015
American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference (Minneapolis, MN)
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman

Why a Social Justice Framework is the Only Way to Climate Justice and Deep Sustainability
October 26, 2015
American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference (Minneapolis, MN)
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman

Using a Social Justice Lens to Address the Doubt, Denial and Dismissal of Climate Change and the Need for a Sustainable Future
October 28, 2015
American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education annual conference (Minneapolis, MN)
HCG presenter: Heather Hackman

Conferences & Events

Additional upcoming learning opportunities that might be of interest to HCG followers...

National Summit for Courageous Conversation
Organized by the Pacific Educational Group
October 10-15, 2015 in Baltimore, MD


Audacious Philanthropy 2015
Organized by Social Venture Partners
October 22-24, 2015 in Seattle, WA

AASHE 2015 Conference & Expo
Organized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
October 25-28, 2015 in Minneapolis, MN


2015 NWSA Annual Conference: "Precarity"
Organized by the National Women's Studies Association
November 12-15, 2015 in Milwaukee, WI

The Impact of Media and Education on the Other Tradition
Organized by the National Center for Race Amity
November 19-21, 2015 in Quincy, MA

Overcoming Racism: Vigilance Now!
Organized by the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative
November 13-14, 2015 in St. Paul, MN

2015 People of Color Conference: Art, Science, Soul and the Equity Imperative
Organized by the National Association of Independent Schools
December 3-5, 2015 in Tampa, FL

 

Book Review


Irving, Debby. Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race. Cambridge, MA: Elephant Room Press, 2014.
 
            I love to be around storytellers. Two friends and I make a habit of purchasing season tickets to a local series of interviews with writers, and with only a few exceptions, these interviews have been completely captivating for the power of the stories these authors chose to tell. They’re not intending to “tell a story”, but an occupational reality for almost all of them is that they use words to share observations about life in such a way that those of us listening are moved to laughter, tears, grief, identification and hope. Thus the power of story and thus the value of Debby Irving’s Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (2014). Throughout the book, Debby shares insights, conceptual pieces, and many of the internal workings of Race, Racism and Whiteness (RRW) via the explanation of her journey and the honest and transparent sharing of her story. Beyond the obvious value of her personal narrative, storytelling is an essential element of this book’s examination of racial issues in the U.S. in two ways.
 
            First, through her personal story Irving is by default sharing part of the story of Race in this entire society both historically and currently. When I conduct trainings on racial issues I am always alarmed that the U.S. racial narrative, such a powerful force in the creation and maintenance of systemic Racism and Whiteness and ultimately U.S. identity, is so rarely talked about in mainstream U.S. society. And in most of the places where it is openly discussed in large-scale ways, the tenor of the conversation is too often hyperbolic, confusing, inaccurate or sensationalized (aka Rachel Dolezal). Rarely is the history discussed and thus rarely are we able to unpack how this four hundred year old creation has slowly but powerfully taken on the role of meta-narrative and thus the “truth” in U.S. society. Through her personal revelations, however, Debby exposes some of this history, both writ large for all racial groups in the U.S. and then more specifically for Whites, and helps the reader place their racial reality in the context of this larger racial landscape and the macro-narratives of Race that drive and have driven this society for so long. By way of modeling the journey, her content delivery is presented through the process by which she unlearned myths and replaced them with the facts regarding RRW in this society. And, as is always the case when dominant group members “wake up”, she shares the personal confusion, heartache and anger that the experience evokes. In this way, Debby’s story can serve as a story for so many White U.S.ers who need to also wake up and move forward regarding the dismantling of this long-standing but vulnerable and changeable system of racial oppression.
 
            Story is important in this book for a second reason – authenticity. One of the traps so many White folks fall into regarding RRW is that we intellectualize the content so as to seem like we have command of our topic, or to not be called a racist, or to hide behind our intellects thereby never having to reveal our fear or pain or confusion. Ultimately this treats a powerfully human dynamic as simply a “phenomenon to be studied” thus divorcing any emotions or humanity from the very process of working toward racial justice and equity. This heady approach to RRW ultimately leaves White folks just a bubble off plumb as we attempt to do racial justice work and it makes our efforts hollow, shallow, and disingenuous. Debby’s book leans heavily in the opposite direction because she repeatedly reveals her own fears, ignorance, assumptions, stumbling blocks, and mistakes. With honesty, care, and relational as well as educative intention she shares how her waking up process has unfolded over the years and what it has meant and continues to mean for her and those in her life. Debby’s use of humor as well as accessible language provide a wide pathway for White folks who are just beginning to travel the road of exploring their Whiteness and who might need help understanding how to make sense of it and what to do about it. Through her style, this book has an authentic resonance that storytelling is supposed to engender and makes it easy for White readers to identify not only with her missteps but by default with her journey to growth as well.
 
            Beyond being informative as an individual resource, this book will be highly effective as a group read (book club, community read, class assignment) because it offers up some key ingredients for White folks who want to learn more about racial issues. First, there are thought questions at the end of each three to five page section thus allowing the reader some time to pause and reflect. Importantly, these questions are personal in their nature thereby helping the White reader avoid the above-described trap of over intellectualizing. Some of the questions could use more depth and degree of interrogation, but on the whole the value of encouraging White readers to consistently engage in this type of reflection helps White folks integrate this knowledge in more personal ways and similarly be more authentic in their journey. Second, Debby does a good job of sharing content meant to help White folks understand what we have been given at the hands of this system of racial oppression. Examples include her excellent description of the GI Bill and its role in elevating the wealth and access of White families, a history of the creation of Race, a narrative of what it means to be White in this society, and great examples of the nature of Whiteness in everyday social and work interactions. And finally, the book’s complexity of analysis and clarity of thought seems to follow her own developmental processes because the writing and framing gets clearer and she is able to attend to the nuanced and often confusing realities of Race more and more effectively as the book progresses.
 
            One caution I have is that at a few points she conflates a racial conversation with a cultural one and unwittingly gives a White reader a tiny way out of having to address the complexities of Race just for what it is – Race. I’ve talked about this before in blog posts so I will not belabor it here, but to do so provides a “cultural escape hatch” to White folks who want nothing more than to talk about their “5th generation German ancestors who came over with nothing and scratched out an impossible living and became successful” rather than explore the racialized realities informing their ancestors’ experiences and how that has shaped their own experiences now. In this way the reader just needs to take a little bit of caution regarding this conflating framework and terminology. On the whole, however, the book is quite informative and extremely helpful for White folks who are working for racial justice and I recommend this book as a way to do exactly what Debby intends - to share her process in hopes that it helps other White people begin to make change in their lives and in those around them. Quoting from her concluding pages, “I can’t give away my privilege. I’ve got it whether I want it or not. What I can do is use my privilege to create change.” It is safe to say that Debby’s journey is an instructive and inspiring one for White people who are looking for a deeper understanding of their own experience and hope for a better tomorrow.
-Heather 
 
PS: Looking to buy a copy? Support local! Find or order this book at Magers and Quinn or get it delivered from Boneshaker Books!

Training Tidbits


Training Traps for Dominant Group Members Part I: Being the Expert

            Two months ago I was on a panel of white racial justice (RJ) educators and activists sharing our experience with doing RJ work. As I always say in trainings and talks I give on racial issues, I am definitely no RJ expert nor has my process of coming to RJ work as a multi-generational, white U.S.er been graceful. Nevertheless, I am committed and want to spend my energy and time working to dismantle the very system that gives me the privilege to be sitting on a panel like that in the first place. After some initial introductions and commentary the floor opened up for questions and a woman of color stood to ask us our advice on a situation in her life. Her young daughter is the only child of color in an all White elementary classroom / school and had a horrible experience with a thoughtless and racist lesson her White teacher had designed around “pilgrims and all of our immigration stories”. The woman identified as African American and shared her efforts to talk to the all White administrators and staff about the racist lesson and relayed to us how they completely dismissed her concerns. Not sure of the best way to address these white folks in the face of their blatant Racism, she asked the panel “What do I say to these White people?” The panel paused for a moment and then two White panelists shared their general thoughts about such incidents in school, but didn’t address her question directly. Then another woman of color stood and expressed her frustration at sitting here with “a panel of experts” on Race and yet none of us directly answered her question. The room got tense and then two other women of color immediately shared their exact experiences in educational situations like the first woman described. Many other folks in the room also gave the initial woman their support.
 
            I then took the mic and shared what first crossed my mind as she told her story and asked her question: “Organize! It’s the only way to take on such intractable Whiteness and White people.” I elaborated on this point for a bit, shared my thoughts about what I suspected was going on in the minds of those White folks regarding their Racism and privilege, and then clarified that I in no way see myself as an expert nor can I see a clear cut answer that I as a White person can share with this sister about what she should do in response to Whiteness in a context where I have no relationship with her, we have five minutes to answer her question, and there is no room or space for connected, thoughtful dialogue that would do justice to her experience and create space to truly address her situation. It was a complicated moment and the room was full of frustration, pain and a range of emotions, and in the midst of this complexity I could feel Whiteness wanting me to chime in from a place of privilege. In these moments, especially when a) I as a White person am positioned in front of the room (power) and framed as an expert (more power), and b) I have no actual relationship or room for dialogue with the person asking the question, there are many ways that my Whiteness wants to screw the situation up and ultimately reinforce Racism. For example, in this particular moment Whiteness would have me intellectualize her comments and offer “curricular strategies”, “policy approaches”, and frame the comments of the White educators theoretically as if her life and story are some sort of “thought experiment”. Similarly, Whiteness and its privilege and entitlement would have me play the expert and think that I, as a White person who has never, ever been targeted by Racism, am actually entitled to tell this woman of color what she should do. With total disregard for the lack of safety for her and her daughter, the arrogance of Whiteness and its supremacy would encourage me to give her “some suggestions” about what she should say or do in that moment. Now don’t get me wrong, I have A LOT of suggestions about what to say and do in those moments, but my suggestions are born out of my experience as a White person. And so if she was White and wondering how to take on that teacher, that school, that entire curricula I would know exactly what to say precisely because I know what is at stake for a White person to challenge it, I know how to leverage White Privilege, I can easily predict how the White staff and admin would respond to a White person and so on. But for me to tell a woman of color what to say when the risk level and the pain involved is not something I have directly experienced is dangerous. Additionally, Whiteness would have me miss these danger signs and jump on in there and try to “save her” despite the fact that she needed no saving and instead needed some information – information and experience she got from other women of color in the room who had been through her exact situation.
 
            And so why am I relaying this story? I am sharing it because it is important for White folks to do our work and know when we step up and show up, and when step back and work in solidarity. The choices in that moment were unfortunately framed (largely by the way the workshop was framed, not by her question or anyone else’s response) that I / the panel either tell her what to do or we are hypocrites. I contend that there is a third option – an option where White folks commit to fiercely wake up, catch up, show up, and clean up the mess we have made regarding Race while also not having to take over. To me it is the difference between being in charge versus being in solidarity. And if there was ever a moment when White folks needed to step up and be in deep and unrelenting conscious solidarity with people of color and native peoples it is now.
 
            This complicated historic moment, where the U.S. racial nightmare is boiling over yet again, is a critical time for White folks to come forward, build relationships, speak out, and act in solidarity in unprecedented ways. That workshop was a perfect example of needing to step forward in solidarity while stepping back from the tempting arrogance and “I can fix it” nature of Whiteness. Yes, the woman asked the panel what she should say, but what I heard under that was a question about how to understand Whiteness and how to strategize and organize in response to these White people. And that is not a question that can be answered in five minutes in a workshop – it can only be answered in relationship, it can only be answered in dialogue, it can only be answered in a commitment to organize and support and be there over the long haul. That is what we must do, all of us who are White, in every corner of this society – build relationships, enter into dialogue, and unflinchingly support the organizing and work of communities of color and native communities, not for “them” but for all of us. As has been said so many times by so many people, the humanity of White folks is inextricably tied to the ending of this system of racial oppression for as long as this system is alive our souls and our capacity to love will forever be denied.
 
            After the workshop, I waited with others to chat with the woman, to introduce myself and to learn her name and more about where she was from, to give her my contact information in hopes that we can do what I just shared – organize. When I got home from the conference, I emailed her and expressed my support for her organizing in any way I could (she lives 2000 miles from me). Just a few days ago, she sent a group email out to all of the folks who reached out to her calling on us to organize. I look forward to working with her and others for change in that school and district.
 
            I’m including this in the “training tidbits” section because if you are White and a racial justice educator it is imperative that those of us who do this type of work be vigilant regarding our Whiteness and guard against the temptation to be an “expert” and tell people of color / native peoples what they should be doing. Similarly, we need to be cautious about the comfort of our privilege, which can lead to complacency, a tepid approach to training, or a passive support for real change in this society. Instead, White educators for racial justice must walk the line of humility as best we can, tempering our entitlements and privilege, and watching out for our complacency. As White racial justice educators we must be incredibly transparent in our work so as to nurture our capacities to do this work well. I mentioned in a recent blog the notion of “racial justice as performance” and the traps of privilege in this moment could have easily led to just that. To be clear, there was nothing wrong at all with the woman asking the question – the question is not the problem. The problem is the temptation of White people to respond in “expert” ways that subtly (or not-so-subtly) reinforce privilege, that create distance between ourselves and people of color / native peoples, and that do not serve the goals of solidarity and true racial justice. And while in that setting I was merely one among many panelists in a very scripted time frame, as a trainer and educator there is a lot I can do I to be sure that I am transparent and accountable and set a tone for solidarity and collective action. 
 
-Heather

Climate Corner


            What can I say about Pope Francis’ encyclical? Though the directional change we must undertake as a species in order to move toward climate justice has over 100 “corners”, I have a feeling that as we look back on the release of the Holy See’s encyclical, we will see that it served to “turn” one of those 100 “corners”. I was drawn to two particular aspects of the Pope’s commentary that I think absolutely must be translated into everyday life: that climate change is a moral issue, and that this is without question a social justice issue and thus we must attend to the impacts on the most marginalized communities first.
 
            Speaking to the moral imperative of climate justice, when the earth is reduced to a commodity and markets are the arbiter of our social, economic and political actions, we are doomed. We are doomed because this paradigm marks an old way of viewing our place on this planet, one that is detached and leaves us as an actor upon the world instead of being one species among many in the world. As we know from every social justice movement, when something can be turned from subject to object it becomes an easier target for abuse, exploitation and ultimately death. The Holy See’s explanation of our moral responsibility has the capacity to counter this by moving humanity’s perception of and relationship to this planet back to the subjective, thereby placing us in the boat with all life on this planet. Once done, once the reconnection of “me” to the global “we” happens, I am much more likely to work from a place of humanity and connection. Couple this with the spiritual elements of the Pope’s “moral” framework and we also find that he is helping us find the strength to do what is right, despite the potential for feeling hopeless. Mother Theresa did not attend to the needs of the poor because she was banking on a guaranteed outcome. The import of such a powerful spiritual leader framing this as a moral issue is that the taproot for facing it then becomes one’s spiritual center, not one’s personal gain or a whole society’s gain in competition with others. As a trained chemist, Pope Francis is not naïve regarding the state we are in, in fact he is quite well versed on the science behind our current climate moment. Given the fact that almost all U.S. politicians who deny that climate change exists at all or that it is because of human activity start their denial diatribes with “I am not a scientist, but…”, the Pope’s scientific acumen serves as all the more reason for giving credence to his framework and marshaling the morality that can be found in Catholicism and the countless other global expressions of faith to face this mounting crisis.
 
            If he had stopped with the above content and perspective it would have been a substantial boost for those seeking climate justice, but Pope Francis went one step further by stressing the need for a social justice perspective as we explore our global responses. As countless climate activists have said, the poorest people, women and children, and the least “developed” spaces on this planet will shoulder the brunt of the climate impacts as they inevitably escalate. The first quarter temperatures of 2015 were record-breaking, again. A better understanding of the data has revealed that the supposed “slow down” of global warming was in fact no slow down at all. The levels of ocean acidification are at record highs from the averages of the Holocene. And, GHG/CO2 ppm are still on the rise globally. In the midst of all of this comes the Pope’s message and it is timely indeed. The 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change international conference (you can Google it as the UN’s COP 21) will take place in Paris at the end of November through the beginning of December and it is an extremely important gathering due to the expectation that a final, international agreement on climate will emerge from it. I hope that the Pope’s message helps the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world demand substantial considerations for the most vulnerable global communities in this agreement. Those who are not Catholic, but recognize a social justice champion when they see one, can also use his message as a means to demand that no global agreement be reached without specific economic, social and political protections for those in the most vulnerable locations around the world.
 
            It is not hyperbolic to say that this is a critical time with respect to climate justice. Those who write about this topic and who study the climate realities much more than I suggest that this is decade zero in terms of our ability to do anything substantial about this climate crisis. COP 21 has the potential to be a watershed and the Pope’s stepping forward should be an example to all of us that the time has come morally, spiritually and socially to be as outspoken and unrelenting as Pope Francis is being with respect to climate. Pressure from the people on our respective governments is what is most needed right now*.
 
-Heather
 
* In the U.S., the U.S. Department of State is in charge of almost all of the negotiations (except for the very last high level talks where the President will attend). Please contact them and press hard for steep cuts and solid commitments.

Blogs


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"Living a Tradition." June 15, 2015, by Heather Hackman
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