The virtual Anti-Racism training we launched through the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso, a project of the Borderland Rainbow Center, has reached so much farther than we ever dreamed it would (apparently, we should have dreamed bigger). Borderland Rainbow Center, this little non-profit in El Paso now has a worldwide reach. When you Google “anti-racism training”, ours is in the top 3 search results. We have Universities, both for-profit and non-profit groups large and small, K-12 schools, and City governments across the country reaching out to provide access to all of their employees, volunteers, and students. We continue to receive highly positive feedback from training participants from all different types of racial and ethnic identities. We continue to be told that our training far exceeds other racism, bias, and diversity trainings participants have completed, some from long-standing and acclaimed institutions. It is, to say the least, overwhelming for our very small team.
As I move forward in meetings with all of these organizations, institutions, and groups about use of our training, I am tasked with identifying why our training is being received so well. What sets it apart? Why is it having such a profound impact on so many who participate? Is it just timing and motivation of participants, or something more? What makes it “different”?
As I have reflected on this, I’ve realized that there are actually a lot of things that set this training apart. Yes, one of them is the breadth of psychological, sociological, and pedagogical knowledge and experience we have in our team, that is what informed curation of content and training structure, and what will allow us to analyze the massive amounts of data we have collected and to publish research and engage in further work. But more than that, deeper than that, what sets this training apart is the intention, the mindset, the experiences behind its creation.
This training wasn’t just born out of the spoken values of diversity, inclusion, and equity, it was born out of those values being put into action. It was born out of listening, out of connection to community, and it was born out of activism. It was born out of doing the work on the ground in communities, collaborating with community leaders and those directly impacted by the many forms racism takes.
It was born out of hearing the way former co-workers spoke about clients of color in comparison to white clients, and seeing how openly a school didn’t comply with a child’s IEP because his parents were undocumented immigrants.
It was born out of a friend not knowing her family history or culture because she was taken from her Indigenous biological family and made to live with a white Christian family.
It was born out of standing next to strangers to form a barrier between armed men screaming obscenities at Muslim children and families outside a North Texas Islamic Center.
It was born out of seeing a white man laugh at a self-identified Mexican Immigrant woman as she became emotional while speaking at a City council meeting sharing her experience of being racially profiled by police.
It was born out of seeing, first-hand, elected officials mock people of color and keep their elected seat.
It was born out of me, a white person, being asked by media to do interviews instead of organizers and activists with Brown skin.
It was born out of seeing people displaced by gentrification and without easy access to clean drinking water.
It was born out of witnessing the way protests led by unarmed People of Color are treated as more of a threat than protests led by armed white men.
It was born out of listening as a friend, self-identified Latina, described being told that her light skin made her “the token Latina for white activists”.
It was born out of the real-life experience of seeing racist rhetoric manifest as actionable immigration policy in the separation of children from their families at the border, and those children being locked away in tents in the desert, then working with activists and advocates from El Paso and across the nation to Free Them.
It was born out of seeing hundreds, thousands of migrant families cold and hungry at the hands of racist policies and working with the community to welcome them with love.
It was born out of watching the community of El Paso reckon with a racist terrorist driving hundreds of miles to murder in the name of white supremacy. It was born out of calling and texting my friends to see if they were still alive.
It was born out of seeing, time and time again, the abuse and murder of Black people by police and hearing the countless ways those acts of violence, degradation, and murder were justified.
It was born out of arguments with friends and loved ones.
It was born out of watching my white friends grapple with knowing racism exists and it is wrong, but fearing the uncertainty of their role and what bringing change would really mean for life as they know it.
It was born out of understanding that through all of this, I have had the privilege of listening, observing, witnessing, organizing, assisting, but always one step removed from being directly impacted.
It was born out of the hard and continuous work of addressing my own bias and internalized influence of white supremacist ideology and becoming an ally, earning the trust of longtime activists and advocates, and knowing that anyone can do this if they choose to.
And so much more…
All of these experiences, the connections, the learning on the ground, in person, has led to the creation of a training that immerses you in the truth of our history, and how that history is embedded in our present, and gives a safe and private place to swallow that truth and digest it with support. It provides access to the spectrum of racism, not just relegating the conversation to Black and white. And then, to address the truth of yourself, your own identity, your own bias and beliefs, and understand how the deliberately created system of racism has influenced you. And lastly, giving you the opportunity to move forward in the journey of becoming anti-racist. It is 6 hours of difficult work, and really that’s only the beginning.
This is not diversity training. This is anti-racism training. This training is not designed to give you facts to regurgitate, to give you a list of all the right things to say in conversations, or to give you “the magic formula” for being anti-racist. There is no one magic formula because everyone is coming to the table with different identities, experiences, perceived barriers, and knowledge levels (intersectionality). This training is designed to fill in the gaps that make so many diversity and racism trainings less impactful than they could be. This training is designed to get at the core of who you are and the ways that racism impacts you, to make you uncomfortable, and to encourage you to sit with and process that discomfort. It is designed to give the opportunity for a deeper understanding of the intentional nature of systemic and institutional racism, and to present you with a choice: Are you going to do something with this knowledge and information, or not? It is up to you. You have significant power and capacity to create change within yourself, within your family, your community, and beyond. The common saying is, “when you know better, you do better”, but that saying is leaving out choice. Becoming anti-racist is a choice, it is many choices. It is choosing to address racism within you and around you.
These things, I believe are why this training has been so impactful for people. It was, and is, truly a labor of love for humanity. When you are creating something, your intent matters. When you love someone, you want the best for them, and the truth is, racism and white supremacy, are harmful and abusive to everyone in different ways. For white people, it disguises itself as privilege, making it easier for us to ignore all of the mental and emotional harm it causes us, and to explain away the mental, physical, and economic harm it causes for People of Color. You have the opportunity to free yourself from this abuser and to then help free others. It isn't fun. It doesn't feel good. But it is necessary. It is a matter of life and death. This training gives you space to do that deeply personal and vital work.
I hope you will do it.
This labor of love is endorsed by The Texas Poor People’s Campaign, Brown Berets del Chuco, and the Red Handed Warrior Society.