Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Could Not Agree More

Beyond Diversity 101 is the training model that will be used at the LGBT Quaker Midwinter Gathering I will soon be attending. I am extremely pleased that someone has finally found a system that takes into account both my concerns and my convictions. A mission statement of a sort follows below.

Diversity training has traditionally been based in models driven by guilt and blame. We believe that if the goal is to become a more whole society, such trainings are highly ineffective. We need to move beyond the vicious cycles that are embedded in these old “Diversity 101” models.

We can, in fact, abolish systematic discrimination within and without. It requires recognizing, taking responsibility, shifting mindsets while continually building and utilizing effective skills. Beyond Diversity 101 is for all who choose to transform systems of separation and power-over. It is for those who want to work toward wholeness — within and without.

Niyonu D. Spann Niyonu D. Spann talks about creating the Beyond Diversity 101 Workshops:

I first had a spiritual leading to develop the Beyond Diversity 101 intensive after some 10 years or so of working as a diversity workshop facilitator. I was beginning to see a disturbing pattern in myself and in my fellow trainers.  

When we facilitators measured "success" during and after a workshop, it was frequently by a yardstick which correlated to the following: on one side, how guilty had the white folks—especially white men—been made to feel; and on the other side, had the people of color, women or some other designated oppressed group gotten sufficiently in touch with their pain and expressions of anger? 

I began to notice that most activities in our workshops either encouraged oppressed groups to tell their story of victimization or else encouraged the oppressor groups to learn and hopefully to come to feel a sense of responsibility—more usually, guilt—about what they had "done."

It is natural to have feelings of guilt in response to one’s personal wrong actions or the crimes of a group to which one belongs. It is likewise natural to respond with feelings of anger on the side of the ones wronged. We are, after all, talking about serious crimes here: rape, murder, and premeditated attempts to dismantle whole cultures — historically and now!

It is important and even vital to tell the unvarnished truth about these past and present oppressive dynamics, and to permit space for the emotions that naturally arise. The problem I was perceiving in these workshops, however, lay in their end result: paralyzing guilt or anger for every participant, both the "oppressors" and the "oppressed." 

We were not imparting new understandings or rapprochements, much less engendering transformed agents of peace, social justice and equality. Participants often left us just more stuck than before.
So my fundamental awakening as a diversity trainer was this. Uncovering the fullest truth possible must always reach an acknowledgment of the deeper interconnection underlying our seeming divisions as "oppressed" and "oppressors."

We recognize the reality of that interconnection through the heart, not in becoming bogged down with negative emotions. Of course, we must acknowledge the gross injustices upon which our nation, communities and religious establishments have been founded and are presently sustained. Courage of heart will allow us to see and make these difficult acknowledgements, record the truth of them, but then also to take the necessary action, both within and without, to right them.

Therefore, the various Beyond Diversity 101 workshops all begin with the declaration that the heart is essential in this work. This quote by Gary Zukav frames each opening session: "This is Heartwork that we are doing – therefore we are calling on a wider order of logic than that which comes from the mind. This wider order of logic – this heartwork – requires close attention to feelings/emotions." Not everyone attending a BD101 training achieves such courage of heart, but this is surely the goal!

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