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ASDIC is an esteemed antiracism workshop provider, based in Saint Paul and operating across Minnesota and beyond.  ASDIC provides antiracism workshops for businesses, schools and organizations, as well as for-credit higher education courses.  In all of these settings, ASDIC promotes changes in awareness, knowledge, communication skills, and moral commitment. All workshops conclude with individual and collective planning for racial justice, leaving participants with the ability to transfer the knowledge learned into the context of their own lives with the motivation and skills to contribute building, racially just society.
“The ASDIC experience is rigorous, compassionate, respectful and non-coercive. ASDIC participants undertake an intellectual and emotional examination of the historical social, political, and economic factors that continue to divide, limit, and exclude. Patient, kind, and supporting, the ASDIC Facilitators invite each participant to walk with them to explore the bitter and ugly places that are typically denied or avoided.  Out of this process participants experience glimmers of a society beyond denial, shame, guilt, and rage ‑ a society constructed on compassion, community, justice, hope, and love.” Award Recognition for Outstanding Service, Hamline University, Division of Student Affairs, Outstanding Service 2007:

 

 

 

  • Looking at Racism Together
  • Other Recognition
  • Mission
    Goals
    Assumptions
  • Value for Participants
  • Pedagogical Assumptions
    Theory of Change
  • ASDIC Resources
    • Definitions
    • Bibliography
    • Principles & Assumptions
  • ASDIC Facilitator
    Drop Box

Looking at Racism Together

What is it like for a small group people to study and dialogue about racism together over a three month period? “Empowering.” “Life-changing.” “Liberating.” “The hardest work I ever did.” And “Transformative.” Over and over again, “Transformative.”

These are the responses of people who have been members of ASDIC Antiracism Study-Dialogue Circles, a program based on the West Side of Saint Paul.

But how can this be? Don’t we “know” that talking about racism in settings that include both People of Color and white people is fraught with offense, accusations and bad feelings? Don’t we “know” that there are impossible differences of opinion around this issue, and that relationships fall apart if we discuss them openly?

Something happens when people are able to come together “just as we are” to look at “how we are” without judgment or preconditions. Coming together we first agree on how we shall begin to be in conversation together. What kinds of understandings do we need in order to think, wonder and reflect aloud, to express emotions openly? How do we wish to keep company with each other as each of us engages in openness and vulnerability?

Something happens when people come together to speak the truth about their responses to a common reading or video, or to share an anger, a fear, a loss or a hunger. Something happens when people try to see social realities through other people’s eyes and feelings. Something happens.

Little by little it happens. Not necessarily in the first session, or even the second or third. But somewhere around the fourth session there is a decided shift from being individual learners to being a community of learners that, together, is recognizing the complexity and poignancy of what racism is about. The realities of racism begin to matter for everyone because the issues are enfleshed in the people sitting together in the Circle.

The particular experiences that influence our understandings of ourselves and the world become clearer.  We appreciate that, through no fault of our own, each of us was born into a setting already structured by a particular history of racism and colonialism and by their present-day operations.  European-American members begin to see that, just as particular historical events, politics and group experiences have shaped the identities of, say, Indigenous Americans or African Americans, so too particular events and political decisions have created shared experiences among the people assigned “white” identities in this society. We examine the every-day realities of the white experience and the ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that develop under those realities. Those of us who are white begin to perceive how we are reflecting whiteness in the ways we think and act and are able to talk about this within the small community of our Circle. Those of us who are white grow in our felt understanding of the ways whiteness is problematic for People of Color. We perceive more clearly what is problematic, both in our personal behaviors and in the assumptions, policies and norms that govern everyday life in the wider community.

As all of us gain clarity as to how our current realities came to be and how they are reproducing themselves on a daily basis, we may experience a sense of outrage.  We may have a need to mourn and grieve. The Circle we have formed is able to hold all of this. Those of us who are People of Color witness our white peers engaged in hard personal work, acquiring new abilities to identify and address the issues, and developing the strength of their moral convictions. For many of us who are Persons of Color, this is the first time we have witnessed such a significant transformation by white people.

Then, as a group’s time comes to an end, what is needed? A “knowing” of where our responsibilities lie, Personal Action Plans, a network of support–these stand behind us as we build new relationships and together work to interrupt systemic racism in the immediate contexts of our lives. White members appreciate that People of Color, because of their location in relation to racism, have perspectives about what needs to be done that may differ from their own. Those of us who are white know we need to take this into account–we need to stay in communication and community as we engage in the work. We need to continue examining our own white behaviors and styles of interaction, and then our involvement can be welcomed as part of a shared effort, a shared vision, and the basis of a new community.

Herbert A. Perkins, PhD, and Margery K. Otto, JD, are Co-Directors of the ASDIC Antiracism Study-Dialogue Circles program, www.asdic-circle.org. They have been named the 2010 Facing Race Ambassadors by the Facing Race Initiative of The Saint Paul Foundation, in recognition of the contributions the ASDIC program has made to antiracism transformation over the past two years in the East Metro area.

Other Recognition

Recognition for Service in Advancing the Agency’s Work to Reduce Disparities in Service Delivery and Outcomes: The Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2013.

Designation as Sage at Summit of Sages: University of Minnesota School of Nursing, 2012.

Facing Race Ambassador Award: The Saint Paul Foundation, 2010.

Touchstone Award for Inclusiveness: Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation, 2010.

Mission Goals Assumptions

Mission:
ASDIC Metamorphosis brings people together to build community, equipping them to effectively address racism.  Through shared study and dialogue, ASDIC facilitates new understandings and transformative engagement.

Goals:
The paramount goals of the ASDIC Metamorphosis program are the creation of relational, anti-racist community and the building of capacity within communities to organize and sustain anti-racism awareness and action.

Assumptions:
We humans exist as interdependent peoples. No wound is other-inflicted that is not also self-inflected. Racism is an infectious wound – a wound with material and relational consequences. Yet, it is a “thing” apart from us – imposed on us, possessing us;  – a thing created and sustained by us and by others through omission and co-mission, through conscious and unconscious behavior and unaware complicity. It is also a system of ideas and worldview – an ideology. Its consequences need to be addressed through confronting it as a legacy still active in personal and institutional behavior, informing our interpersonal and corporate relations. We need to learn of its origins and the ways it continues to function as a central organizing principle in all of our social relations and institutional arrangements. We need to learn how we may organize our social realities differently, so that we may live differently.

Value for Participants

Who We Serve:
We serve: government, civic leaders, social agencies, businesses, education (faculty, students, administrators, staff, trustees), institutional administrators, youth programs, faith-based communities, congregational leaders, and antiracist activists and trainers.

Value:
Participant experience –

  • Depth of analysis at socio-historical and personal levels
  • Interactive dialogue and reflection in an environment that is nonjudgmental, safe for risk-taking, supportive
  • Being commissioned as informed, empowered, and response-able
  • Understanding and empathizing with the intergenerational trauma associated with the US legacy
  • Formation of an effective, long-lasting antiracist community oriented toward personal and social transformation.

Themes – We attend to:

  • Reflection on who we have come to be and what we need from ourselves and from the “other” in the face of the differences, real and imagined, that divide us
  • Learning the language and finding the voice to break the silence regarding US racial history and white racism
  • Developing our ability to contribute to just, democratic society through our knowledge of historical and contemporary racist discourse, ideology, and social arrangements and through transformative resistance practices.
  • Reflecting on our socialization into the white racial frame (worldview, beliefs, images, values, feeling systems, and assumptions supportive of white, elite domination) – exploring our formation as “raced” persons within the system of US racism
  • Emotional, spiritual, psychological dispositions and practices to productively and healthily confront our historical racist legacy, practices of exclusion, indifference, abandonment, and patterns of disconnection
  • Restoration of our humanity through the telling and reinterpreting of the “origin” stories underlying and justifying our contemporary social arrangements and racial hierarchy
Resources and relationships to motivate and empower us toward personal and social transformation

Pedagogical Assumptions Theory of Change

Pedagogical Assumptions:
Transformation results from:

  • The experience of being heard and understood even as one’s views change.
  • Storytelling with reframing, redefining and new meanings, and with alternative futures becoming possible through the hearing of multiple stories from within the room.
  • Dialogue as searching – the practice of truth-telling; of living with questions and of searching for what we do not know; of experiencing, exploring, deconstructing and reconstructing cultural symbols through storytelling and social analysis.
  • Mutual influence, support, feedback, encouragement.
  • Revealing one’s self—leading to the revealing of truths/understandings within the others engaged in the dialogue.
  • The lived experience of creating a new social reality, beginning with being held in a circle of compassion, reflection, reevaluation, visioning of what can be, and commitment to action.                  *(Adapted: M. E. Mullins, in Park and Nelson, eds. 2001:19)

 

ASDIC Theory of Change:
ASDIC Circle sessions involve intensive, reflective, and dialogic cognitive and emotional engagement with our racial legacy – a “foundational” legacy manifested in acts, decisions, laws, social norms and practices and ongoing meanings, consequences, and reproductions. Most significant to this legacy is “the white racial frame,” a way of understanding based on a Eurocentric worldview of assumed European superiority over other civilizations, cultures and bodies. We engage the assumptions underlying this legacy through dialogue about our past and the ways that past continues to structure our thinking, emotions, imagination, and behavior today. We “interrogate” our social understandings. Our dialogue process involves a cycle of study, reflection, theory formation, acting upon new understandings, and a return to reflection and assessment of the outcomes of our action – praxis. Here, in the Circle dialogues, we engage in “inner work,” “inner interrogation,” “social interrogation,” judgment, and reassessment, and collective processing. The praxis process allows for the possibility of change. We decide, act on our understandings, and monitor our success or failure, learning from both as we change..

ASDIC is a community dedicated to mending the brokenness of racism, fostering wholeness, spinning webs of relationship, and untangling knots of oppression.  We do this by crossing racial and cultural boundaries to explore the very thing that divides us – the structures of racial domination that create our differing life experiences and that deeply shape us individually and collectively.

These structures are not only social norms and institutional practices. They are internalized structures of heart and mind as well – affecting our emotions, feelings, images, assumptions, predispositions, and worldview (Feagin 2013).  They are products of a particular history that continues to impact us. The process of coming into wholeness requires us to unveil these structures – to see how they are affecting the ways we perceive and relate to each other, how they inform self-understanding, and how they fabricate the social arrangements that structure our daily lives.  The discursive understanding of these internal and external structures readies ASDIC members to engage the wider community.

Those engaged in this dialogue circle are more than a “dialogue group.”  They together, participants and facilitators, comprise a community. They are a community joined with many other groups who also engage in extensive antiracism education and training and share antiracism goals and aspirations.

ASDIC Resources • Definitions • Bibliography • Principles & Assumptions

Resources:
ASDIC Principles and Assumptions

  • Humans exist in and for relationship.  Our “calling” as humans is to be in right relationship (just relationship—tzedakah) with each other and with all of creation.  Right relationship requires justice and compassion demonstrated in mutual responsibility and accountability toward each other’s well-being.
  • The Antiracism Circle discussions are explicit about the calling of each person in the Circle to realize his and her call to relationship.  The work of the Circle is to discern what it means to be in relationship and what it is about racism that destroys our will and capacity for relationship.

 

  • Our consumption-driven society seeks to create false, artificial desire directing us toward individualism and materialism as though it were there that humans meet their desire for joy and fulfillment. Our assumption is that human fulfillment and joy are found in relationship and community, found in completing our well-being in seeking the well-being of others.  We believe that relationship and community are basic requirements for human well-being.
  • Racism is a denial of relationship. Racism was designed and is perpetuated to separate us from each other by denying, in the most profound ways possible, that we are related to each other.

 

  • Racism is not the only form that denial of relationship takes.  We see it connected to other forms of social oppression and, with Martin Luther King, Jr., we see “the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war [as] all tied together.”  They are “triple evils that are interrelated” (MLK 1967, “Where Do We Go From Here?”).  Thus, to seriously address racism means to seriously address other forms of social injustice in society.
  • People who understand that racism is rooted in a 400 year old system of economic exploitation, and that it was constructed, rationalized, and legitimized for economic gain, are less likely to see it as innate to humans and, therefore, inevitable.  Racism was socially constructed, therefore, not given in “nature.”

 

  • ASDIC represents an effort to articulate our human “vocation to relationship” in the context of U.S. racism, to bring people into dialogue about personal and institutional racism, and to help them create and sustain a community committed to personal and social transformation.
  • People come to ASDIC Circles desiring to reach into the chasm created by racism, to examine the nature and mold of racial construction, and to find a way to connect across the chasm to create community.  In the process of dialogue they also come to ask in what ways they are implicated in racism through the norms, social patterns, and cultural values that structure their understandings and everyday lives, and they come to ask what specifically they can do to address manifestations of racism in their lives, relationships, and the institutions they uphold or benefit from.

 

  • Facilitators, by using empathy and other facilitative techniques, encourage Circle members to reach into that chasm — to build relationship.
  • ASDIC Circles “work” when people come to know each other in the differences that divide them and form relationships in which racism and its effects can be explored together.

 

  • To create such relationships within an ASDIC Circle, people must struggle with and try to overcome the interpersonal dynamics of racism and recognize and take action to dismantle systemic racism.
  • In their living out of this struggle, members of the Circle create the kind of community that is our deepest human desire.

 

  • Knowledge alone does not create change.  Enduring change occurs through relationships with others.
  • Having created relationships and community amidst the racism that divides us, people begin building these same types of relationships and community in the other parts of their lives.

 

  • To create such relationships and community, people continue to dismantle the interpersonal dynamics of racism and challenge the structures of domination in which racism is anchored.  As each person changes, that person also begins to change the patterns of all the relationships of which they are part, making each of those relationships more antiracist.  This includes the institutions of which they are a part.  Beyond this, structures of domination must be directly addressed through social and political action.
  • People who are living out such relationships and community stand together firmly against institutional and systemic racism, because systemic racism (defined below) denies the relationships and destroys the community in which they live.  Effective resistance to the social forces that deny and destroy relationship requires the formation of coalitions across racial groups.

 

  • The struggle to eliminate racism is a long-term struggle requiring community to sustain it.
  • Joy and fulfillment are found and sustained in the midst of struggle and in the context of a here-and-now beloved community.

 

  • The ASDIC experience creates the conditions for trust and truth telling, the courage to challenge, a sense of solidarity grounded in a common vision, and a context for a beloved community. In this way, ASDIC Circles are a catalyst for people to move into the transformative work of social change.
The underlying objective of ASDIC pedagogy is personal and social transformation. Transformation takes place when we come to see, feel, and desire what is right and needful and are led to actually change because of this awareness and judgment.
 
 

2010 ASDIC Metamorphosis. Phone:651-224-2728  Email: info@asdic-circle.org
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