Cultural Competency Training Exercises
Become an active participant in eliminating racism — Here’s how…
|These exercises were given to participants of the 2010 Stand Against Racism. Two are part of the curriculum used with the YWCA of Spokane’s Board of Directors (specifically Defining Racism, and a longer form of White Privilege).
Below are sample exercises that organizations can do at their place of work or worship with participants. It is advised to conduct these exercises with a trained and knowledgeable facilitator. Contact us for training or more information: 509-326-1190.
It should be noted that these exercises are developed for education on racism in the United States, which includes a context of slavery, colonialism, ongoing Native American genocide, racist labor and immigration policies, and state violence against men and women of color. Racism does not exist in a vacuum, and isolating the context – ours, the United States, Washington, Spokane – is essential for discussion.
You will find discussion questions for processing the explosive device found in January 2011 toward the bottom of this page.
Adapted from Bonner Curriculum: Racism– Deconstructing It. Similar exercises can be found in training by The People’s Institute and other diversity trainers.
This exposes participants to the classic definition of racism, which is power + racial prejudice.
Racism, therefore, is the combination of racial prejudice and power (manifested through discrimination) that has traditionally functioned to systematically oppress and even exterminate groups of people based upon perceived racial inferiority.
At this point stop and consider your audience:
Systemic racism versus individual bias
Have participants watch this two part video (part one, and part two).
Lead a discussion using the below questions:
Intent vs. Impact
Sometimes people don’t understand why their words or actions can offend others– sometimes people assume that others are just too sensitive and need to lighten up or relax. However, in a context of daily racism, even seemingly innocent statements or questions can be hurtful reminders of oppression.
Instruct participants to imagine themselves in the scenario where they wake up, and stub their toe on their bed frame. You can tell this like a story. When they go to work that day, they accidentally kick the floorboard by the coffee machine, further injuring their toe. Later, a coworker accidentally steps on it. At this point in the day, they are keeping their distance lest they injure it again. When they get home, their partner takes their coat, gives them a kiss, and accidentally steps on their toe. This is the last straw, and they explode and exclaim their confusion why people can’t be more careful, or more thoughtful. Their partner thinks this anger is completely crazy, and way out of line for just stepping on their toe once.
However, if their partner could see a film reel of all the day’s toe injuries, it would make sense. A lot of times when people get offended by a comment or a statement, it is a similar situation: an injury upon an injury. It piles on.
The same is true for seemingly innocent questions or statements. It is important we are mindful what we say, and are willing to apologize and self-evaluate, so that we don’t perpetuate a cycle of this sort of injury.
Explain to participants that statements have both intentions and impacts.
Intention is somebody’s hopes for how an action will affect someone. Impact is how the person is actually feeling the action. Note that each person is the authority here, but only one has the potential to experience material harm.
Introduce the following statements for conversation from the audience. The first one is about sexism, which is a good place to start for many audiences who have not talked about racism before. Ask what the intent is, and what the impact is. Clarify participants answers with below answers.
Please note that having a good intention does not alleviate guilt; a good intention couples with accountability to poor decisions is essential for personal growth.
Calling women “girl” or “honey” at work.
Intent: I don’t discriminate! I judge by the content of a person’s character!
What do your people think?
Where are you really from?
The concept of white privilege can make for challenging discussion. This is recommended for either advanced groups, or advanced facilitators who have already gone through some of the above exercises.
The idea of “free stuff for white people” can be challenging to grasp, particularly for white people who may have grown up in poverty or feel they have not seen the benefits of white privilege. For these participants, it is important to note that privilege is not necessarily an all access pass, but merely an unearned benefit that is often unintentionally cashed in. Privilege is given automatically; it must be denied and challenged consciously.
If it helps, begin by talking about class privilege. Unless you are doing a staff training with the top 1% of wealth holders in the country, everyone should be able to groan at the image below. Use it as a launchpad.
Have participants take turns reading from the list of items from Peggy McIntosh’s essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
Processing The Explosive Device
On Monday, January 17, an explosive backpack with deadly intent was discovered along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March. Community conversations have been sparse, but the reality of the bomb and its intent is impossible to ignore. Consider working with staff or your organization on processing this event.
Potential discussion questions:
A Note For LGBTQ Allies