What is the philosophy behind this project?
Our approach is based on something called dialogic learning, which is essentially about the process of people learning about a social reality by:
starting with their own experiences
moving to other people’s experiences
raising questions about why people’s experiences are similar and different
There are some other key points to this approach, and they will be discussed in the sub-tab called The Reflection-Connection Method, which is under tab: How to Be An Ally.
In terms of core beliefs that drive the project, these are the most important ones.
If you want to have a reasonable chance of expanding a person’s view of the US racial predicament, it most useful to try to deeply listen to them so that they feel heard.
Even though racial anxiety is a minimal/non-existent factor in same race interactions, white allies too often have negative reactions to racism skeptics that make it hard for the ally to be a listening mode. These reactions tend to shut down useful dialogue.
Most people who tend to be skeptical about the impact of racism believe a set of myths that can be strategically engaged through methods of dialogue.
With sufficient guidance and work in the moment, an ally can usually find some truth that accompanies the myth that they actually believe, even while rejecting the rest of the myth the skeptic believes.
The best way of moving the dialogue forward is for the myth and the skeptic to start by sharing experiences (stories) that confirm what they mutually agree on that are relevant.
After creating a connection with the skeptic by sharing stories about something they both believe, the ally should then invite the skeptic to consider the possibility of another idea about race that challenges the myth.
The best way make this invitation is to offer an experience that illustrates this additional truth.
Too often, allies go to quickly to data, evidence, concepts, and metaphors. These need to be in the ally’s arsenal, but should only be used at the right time. If used at the wrong time or with the wrong tone, they can be counter-productive by generating resistance.
It is not vital to change their skeptical person’s entire political ideology in order to turn help them move past their belief in a particular racial myth. In fact, trying to change people’s entire ideology is often counter-productive.
No one really knows what works to raise awareness, so it is vital that people individually and collectively reflect on strategies, in order that everyone discover which strategies work better or individuals and communities.