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I Can't Believe We're Still Workshopping this Shit: Race and Privilege at Bryn Mawr

Sarah's picture

Group Members: Jo, Uninhibited, Sarah, Sdane, Sasha De La Cruz

Google doc we worked on together as  group to prepare:

Final 360 Workshop
I Can’t Believe I’m Still Workshopping this Shit: Race and Privilege at Bryn Mawr (1 hour)

Goals: discuss importance to the whole community;discuss issues of race and privilege (color paper)

Voice: Educating people, privilege, school to prison pipeline - criminalization, voice/discussion, Bryn Mawr College History
Vision: The New Jim Crow, walled space, niches - as related to Perry House, where you feel at home on campus
Silence: Voices are silent on campus, silent activity/discussion, silence as a place of reflection, Delpit,

Materials: flipchart, markers, candy,index cards/pens for each team,  tape the floor for step forward statements

  • Icebreaker (8)
  • Intro (2)
  • Trivia (10)
  • Privilege (8)
  • Silent discussion (10)
  • Bring it back, debrief, wrap up (15)
  • “Now I am ready to...” (5)

Introduction (w/ guidelines) 2 minutes (Introducer: Jo)
How it connects to class: We learned about the racism of the prison system and the school-to-prison pipeline, Delpit, culture of power

Confidentiality (What is said here stays here, what is learned here leaves here)

Assumed goodwill

Leave space for others to talk (2 and 10)

Icebreaker 8 minutes (Introducer: Sdane):
“In silence, everyone find a partner who they don’t know very well”
“Now you are going to your partner.  For two minutes, tell your partner why you think they are here -- talking at them, rather than letting them respond.  Then I will tell you to switch, and your partner will tell you why he or she thinks you are here”
Pair up with someone you don’t know and assume why your partner is there. Then tell each other why they’re there.
“This activity helps highlight the ways in which we all make assumptions about one another, especially people we don’t know very well or don’t think we understand....As we move on throughout the workshop think about assumptions you have made or assumptions people make about you.””
Trivia about the History 10 minutes (Introducer: Sasha De La Cruz):
1. In what year did Perry House open?

a. 1895

b. 1927

c. 1970

d. 1981

2. What’s the  current percentage of faculty of color at Bryn Mawr?
    a. 10%

b. 14%

c. 26%

d. 40%

1. By the 1960s how many blacks students graduated from Bryn Mawr?
a. 9
b. 20
c. 93
                       d. 341

2. What action led to the creating of Perry House?
a. A sit-in organized by Sisterhood
b. A decision by the board of trustees
c. A petition signed by 72% of the student body
                       d. A decision by the president following a plenary resolution

3. In 2012, what’s the percentage of international students that are currently enrolled at Bryn Mawr?

a. 11.2%

b. 24.4%  

c. 38%

d. 42.6%

In what year where black students allowed to come to Bryn Mawr?

What’s the gap of years between when BMC graduated its first black student and when

other seven sisters graduated their first black student?

When did Perry House open up to members of Mujeres and BACaSO?
What’s the current demographics of the college?

Step Forward Statements 8 minutes (Introducer: Sarah):
move chairs to side
introduce 30 sec-1 min: this is an exercise similar to a privilege walk, but for lack of space we’re just going to take one step forward if the statement applies to you and then step back on the line.  The statements I will read discuss race, but also connect holistically to other forms of privilege. (or don’t mention race...? be explicit or let people figure it out on their own...)

Take a step forward if...

You have ever felt uncomfortable about a joke directed at your gender

You’ve been the only person of your race /ethnicity in a class before

        The majority of your professors/colleagues are of your race/ethnicity
           You can hold hands with the person you love

You have more than 50 books in your house

There’s a place on campus where you’re not underrepresented

You’ve ever felt silenced in a class

You understand the majority of your readings

           You feel like there are stereotypes about your religion on campus

Silent Discussion 10 Minutes (Introducer: Uninhibited):
One of our classes focuses on the impact of silence, as a place to meditate or think about issues. We’ve done it in our silence and voice classes as a way to allow people to engage in a different form of discussion. Write responses to prompts and respond to others comments.
To evoke different emotions from people
        The racial climate at Bryn Mawr is…. Sarah
        In regards to Perry I have questions about… Sasha De La Cruz
I’m privileged at Bryn Mawr because or I’m not privileged at Bryn Mawr because... Jo
The most important parts of my identity are.... Sdane

Next steps/Debriefing (Introducer: Uninhibited)
Go to the poster that strikes you the most or that you would lieke to continue having a discussion about. (10 minutes)
Bring back to the whole group (5 minutes)- “We have this great website named serendip and we hope that you will join us in continuing the conversation on there”

Closing: Now I’m ready to… 5 minutes (Introducer: Jo)



jo's picture

Final project reflection

Our workshop sprang out of a conversation that I personally might not have had without our 360. Because we had begun to discuss issues of privilege and institutional racism, our 360 was a perfect forum for the Perry House issue when it arose way back in October (September?). As the end of the semester approached, it was clear that many of us wanted our activism project to be about Perry House, and I was thrilled that this might be the perfect way to creat a large-scale, on campus, Bryn-Mawr-focused direct action. As the Perry House fight progressed, it became clear that now was not the time for such an action though I wasn’t prepared to let the idea go. When a workshop was suggested for our group, I realized it fit perfectly with my experience with activism. The best way to get action to happen is to have trainings, workshops, to start the conversation. Though at Bryn Mawr the conversation about Perry as related to instituional racism had begun, it was mostly only taking place among the affinity groups affected (and our 360). Those working on the issue knew that if they were going to change the minds of the administration, they were going to need to gain the support of the larger campus. Because our class is made of people who engage with a diverse mix of 'circles' at Bryn Mawr, and because of the academic knowledge and support we had, we decided our final presentation was a perfect way to hold a workshop about race and privilege at Bryn Mawr and have it attended by the largest most diverse group of people.

In creating our workshop, we drew heavily on all we've learned in our three classes this semester. In the first place, it came out of a discussion of privilege and opression and power that crossed all three classes. In particular, our class discussions focused on these topics as related to prison and public school, but it is equally relevant to everyone's experience at Bryn Mawr. Theoretical background to our workshop came from so many of our readings: The New Jim Crow, Lisa Delpit, Meiners' Right to Be Hostile, and more. The individual classes greatly influenced our project as well. Here's the breakdown:

Silence: We thought about what we learned about silence as both oppressive and necessary for learning. We were trying to bring conversations up that are often silenced on campus. We felt it was greatly important to incorporate silence into our workshop, as it can be a space of great reflection and learning, so we had our silent discussion, something we did often in both Voice and Silence classes.

Voice: Some of the education excerciese we did in Voice class were very helpful in thinking about how to structure this workshop. We knew we'd be working with a very diverse group of people, and we would need to provide activities that were accessible to everyone, where everyone could be enganging on some level and learning, no matter their background or experiences. It was also very helpful to have had a focus on Bryn Mawr history, because we saw through our research projects how much History has influenced the way things are today, and we cannot go forward without looking back and learning from the past. We incorporated history about Perry and diversity at Bryn Mawr into our trivia section.

Vision:Bryn Mawr is and incredibly different place from the Cannery, but it is still an institution, a walled space. We found the discussion of niches particularly helpful in thinking of how to make the Perry issue applicable to everyone. One of the biggest reasons Perry House is important is as a niche for Black and Latina students on campus. One of our privilege walk questions was particularly relevant to this: "step forward if there is a place on campus where you're not underrepresented." Without Perry, there doesn't exist a physical space like this for Black and Latina students

Helping to lead and plan the workshop was really insiteful for me in thinking about the work we have been doing in this 360, work I will likely be doing in some form or another for the rest of my life. It went incredibly well, and showed me how possible it is to bring people together from all different backgrounds and viewpoints for a short amount of time and, at least for a little while, get them on the same page, and move their thinking on issues of privilege at least a little bit. This is incredibly hopeful for me. As frustrating and depressing as some of our classes and experiences have been this semester, there is so much potential for growth in all of us and even in those who weren't a part of our class. And from what I can see, a workshop like ours is a great way to start. As I see it, this 360 is a time preceding action, a forground silence perhaps, and in the teaching theater, during the "now I am ready to..." excercise, I could feel a bubbling up, I could feel people getting ready for action. And I'm so excited!

sdane's picture

Workshop reflection

            Before fall break, a group of students in our 360 got together at Sharaai’s apartment to eat food, drink wine, and discuss the upcoming Perry House plenary resolution.  All of us there were interested in figuring out how to support the students pushing for its passage, but one of the most meaningful parts of the conversation, for me, was how much it complicated my understanding of the situation.  What does it mean that only three affinity groups get to have members living in Perry?  What does Perry House’s very specific history mean for its purpose today?  In some ways, that decidedly non-academic discussion ended up informing how we planned our workshop.  Although we split off from what had been a larger Perry House-focused activist group, we decided to broaden the focus of our workshop, and look at race and privilege more generally. 

            I think that this decision was important for a variety of reasons, but perhaps was most related to a concept learned from our time in the cannery: metaphors.  In some ways, the controversy surrounding Perry House became a metaphor for much larger and systemic issues of race and privilege at Bryn Mawr.  By getting beyond the specificity of this one (albeit crucial) campus concern, we hoped to get to the crux of what actually caused Perry House to be shut down in the first place.  Moreover, we were able to incorporate some of the complicatedness of our earlier discussions, bringing in some of the important intersectionalities of privilege and oppression that people face on a daily basis at Bryn Mawr.  I think that both the intention and the execution of our workshop drew on all three classes, and also the larger question that we opened with this semester.  What does it mean to be women in walled communities?

            I am surprised that in our instructions for writing this reflection we were asked to write about the ways in which our project related to the “Education, English and Criminal Justice knowledge you have acquired over the course of the semester.”  Although those might have technically been the subjects of our classes, I think that what we drew on for our workshop went beyond the confines of those three disciplines.  In particular, I don’t think that we drew anything from criminal justice knowledge, but I do think that we took some very important concepts from the restorative justice movement (which was touched on in our readings, and I researched more thoroughly for one of my memos).  As we planned our workshop, we borrowed from guidelines about “how to talk to someone about privilege who doesn’t know what that is.”  One of the important points raised in that piece was that privilege does not have to mean guilt, because nobody is responsible for the past, but we are responsible for doing something about it.  Just like restorative justice practice tries to let offenders repair harm caused by criminal behavior, as a white person facilitating this workshop, I hoped to repair some of the community harm of unchecked privilege.  If we think about racism as a kind of structural violence, then the restorative justice tenets of allowing victims and offenders to come together and participate in the response was very much a part of our workshop.  Moreover, we tried to impart some tools to help the “offenders” start to repair some of the harm that has been caused. 

            A big part of restorative justice theory is dialogue, and a lot of restorative justice programs stress the importance of victim-offender mediation.  Although these encounters are different in important ways, some of these programs seem to speak to the concept of dialogical education that we learned about at the beginning of the semester in Jody’s class.  We read a piece by Paolo Freire and Ira Shor talking about the ways in which dialogue can lead to consciousness raising for both the oppressed and the oppressor.  This concept spoke to me, and became a lens through which to interpret and analyze many of our subsequent education readings.  One of the most poignant parts of Freire’s thinking, for me, is the idea that everyone is hurt by an oppressive society, but that libratory dialogue can be empowering for all groups of people.  Although our workshop only provided a limited timeframe for dialogue to occur, I think that we were able to borrow from concepts of transformative pedagogy to begin a discussion that will hopefully continue beyond our short program.

            I also think that the focus on dialogue very much drew from our silence class.  One of the most obvious was the frequent reference to Delpit’s idea of the “culture of power” throughout the planning process of creating the workshop.  Rather than looking at Delpit’s focus on process versus skill building in classroom instruction, we drew on the idea of “codes” to make sure that the workshop was accessible to everyone who wanted to participate.  For many of us, the idea of there being a “culture of power” was something we had understood viscerally, but Delpit’s article helped us give a name to the feeling.  We understand that people coming to the 360 presentations would have different backgrounds and past experiences, and we didn’t want to inadvertently silence any of the participants by using coded language or ideas that some people might not understand.  Although it might not have been obvious while participating in the final workshop experience, we went through many different iterations of the activities before becoming to the final design.

            Theories of restorative justice, Freire’s notion of liberatory dialogue, and Delpit’s concept of the “culture of power” all came from very early on in the semester, but ended up framing much of what we did as the semester progressed.  So many of our class discussions stemmed from these ideas, and I think that a lot of the dialogue that occurred within our classes became the framework for our workshop.  Because of the unique nature of a 360, we all got to hear one another’s opinions, reflections, and ideas on a regular basis, and I think that we tried to shape the workshop around what we understood to be needs, concerns, and questions of our classmates.  Even though the text and theories from all three classes were important guides for our discussion, much of the learning in all three classes came from one another, and we were able to draw from that knowledge.

            We very purposely decided to end the workshop with the “Now I’m ready to…” activity, because I think that we all saw the workshop as having the potential to be the stepping stone for future action.  Obviously, the Perry House fight will be continuing next semester (and maybe beyond), but I think that the kinds of discussions we encouraged can be part of an even broader ongoing dialogue.  As someone who will very soon be a Bryn Mawr alum, the planning of the workshop helped me to personally think about how I can take these ideas of privilege and power outside of the classroom and into the rest of my life.  Although I deal with these issues all the time in my job and activist work, I rarely relate them to academic and theoretical reading I’ve done throughout my time at Bryn Mawr.  Many of us left our Cannery part of the Vision class wishing we’d incorporated more text from the beginning of the semester.  Even though that didn’t happen within our 360, planning the  workshop has helped me realize how the kinds of activities we did can be a format to bring those ideas to people who might not have a formal education background.  It also helped me realize that discussion can be complicated and messy and nuanced, and that that is ok.

Sarah's picture

360 workshop reflection

When we began planning our final projects and knew it was some combination of activism with an element of presentation to the Bryn Mawr community, I immediately thought of a workshop.  Though it was tricky to come up with all the activities, create discussion in multiple ways so that people were comfortable, plan for all the logistical elements, relate everything back to our classes, and be wrapped up in one hour, I was lucky enough to work with four other really enthusiastic, creative, and intelligent group members.
We began our workshop with a really brief introduction and guidelines.  We wanted to mention some of the topics we learned in class to plant seeds about what we would be discussing as well as create some structure.  Many of our audience members may have been familiar with similar guidelines, but we thought it would be a good idea to have people listen for a couple minutes to settle down after the intermission.  For people who hadn’t been to a workshop or event like this before, we wanted to put into practice Delpit’s ideas about being explicit about codes.  We also asked 360 members to removed their name tags to remove the barrier/wall between us and our guests.
Our ice breaker, which involved pairing up with a stranger and assuming why they were there, was about verbalizing the assumptions we make about people (based on race, clothing, etc) without actually knowing them.  This related back to some of our journal prompts in the Cannery about identity and how we see ourselves, how others see us, and the impact this has on us.  Though some people said the activity was uncomfortable for them, most people did not offer up any wrong assumptions made.  I know in my trio both my partners were somewhat racially ambiguous and I found myself assuming that students of color there were probably from affinity groups, while white students were probably friends of 360 students.  Even though I, as a white person, am interested in talking about race, I often assume other white people aren’t, that they must have some other reason for wanting to come.  However, it did turn out that both of my partners did identify as white and were friends of 360 students.  Voice was an important aspect of this activity because we need to voice our assumptions (whether privately to ourselves or to others) before we can begin to challenge them.
Our next activity, trivia, was to briefly educate people in a fun way that didn’t make people feel embarrassed.  The idea of making things “fun” and being very strategic about our tone in all our activities stemmed from an article Sdane sent us about how to talk to people about privilege, without making them mad or defensive (article link:m We genuinely thought that our trivia questions were pretty tough, but in retrospect I should not have been surprised to recognize that generally one or two people from each group knew at least one of the answers through their experiences either as someone who works in admissions, or studies Bryn Mawr history, or if they had just been very observant to other aspects of the presentation.  We had originally hoped to incorporate more questions about Bryn Mawr’s history, but because of time constraints we decided to cut some questions in hopes that people would get the information from the timeline (created by Jomaira, Sasha, and I for Jody’s class) just outside of the teaching theater.  We wanted to include questions about Bryn Mawr’s history, because as we learned in Barb’s class from reading The New Jim Crow, racism has evolved throughout America’s history, so even though some may think Bryn Mawr or the US is “post-racial”, we wanted to draw connections between the past and now to show the implications of racism today.
In the step forward activity, we wanted to move people from an energetic fun group activity to a more reflective activity while still having the full group participate.  It was a little more crowded than we anticipated, but we switched up the format so that instead of having one line, we would have two lines of people facing each other (we didn’t want to put one line behind another, because then everyone in the front line would have to turn around to see the movement in the back line).  Because I was nervous and excited, it was hard for me to let silence sit after each statement, to give people a chance to process and look around, but I tried my best to leave that space.  That was one component of the workshop we tried to be very cognisant of: even though we had all these great ideas and only an hour, we wanted to make sure there was some silence (or at least quiet) to give people time to think and process.  We tried to have a range of step forward statements to demonstrate how complex and widespread privilege is, and also wanted to have statements that connected back to our classes in broad ways.  For example, the statement about having a place you feel comfortable on campus was influenced by the theme of niches, and the statements directly about school and books were intended to demonstrate that education is a privilege.  As a group, in our planning, we discussed the school to prison pipeline and how prison is a very unlikely reality for Bryn Mawr students, or students at other elite schools, though many of us have done things that could have resulted in jail time.  We decided it would take too much time to explicitly explain/discuss the school to prison pipeline in our workshop, but thought that naming education as a privilege was a good first step.
The next activity was a silent discussion with the following prompts: The racial climate at Bryn Mawr is..., In regards to Perry I have questions about…, I’m privileged at Bryn Mawr because or I’m not privileged at Bryn Mawr because..., The most important parts of my identity are... .   We felt the prompt about racial climate was a good topic because this discussion is often silenced at Bryn Mawr, or had behind closed doors.  The prompt about Perry House was intended for people to ask questions about this “walled” space on campus, without being completely accountable (there is some level of anonymity with silent discussions) for questions which they may be scared to ask aloud.  A silent discussion includes an overarching theme of all our classes: silence, because the activity is completed in silence, voice, because people are expressing their thoughts and questions, and vision, because people are literally using their eyes to have these conversations.  After the silent discussion we broke into small groups in hopes of that structure being less intimidating and giving a chance to speak for people who wouldn’t speak in the full group.  Once we brought things back to the full group the conversation was really rich and could have gone on for much longer, but hopefully in cutting it short we motivated people to keep talking outside of the workshop.
Our closing activity, where everyone went around the room and said “I am now ready to...” was intended to create a feeling of forward motion.  Although the workshop ended, these conversations should still continue.  It was so great to hear people say they were ready to do concrete things like talk to their friends at home about race, or suggest this type of activity to the customs committee, or to document Bryn Mawr’s history.  Although talking about things doesn’t always get results, it’s definitely always a great starting place.  In my work in the dorms as a CDA (Community Diversity Assistant), many students have asked for a space to talk about race, and in this workshop we provided that space and possibly an example of how to continue these conversations.  It may seem small, but sometimes “taking meaningful action” into the world just requires exactly what we did: come up with a topic and structure, bring a diverse group of people together, and have them share ideas.  We definitely did work hard on this project, but it was enjoyable and I can see more workshops or presentations like this occurring in my future. Right now, (as a few people said yesterday) I’m ready to take a break, but I know next semester these topics will resurface and I will be one of many people to rejoin these conversations.