White people, with all the racial turmoil in our world, do you want “do something” about racism? Well, today is your lucky day! Debuting for the 2017-2018 school year is a new anti-racist curriculum titled, “Racial Crossfit!”
You aren’t afraid of a little hard work and discomfort, right?
Like the exercise version of crossfit, Racial Crossfit is not something you take on lightly. You have to prepare and set a goal. And the process is painful, difficult, and requires a commitment to discomfort that includes someone like a personal trainer/coach (that would be me), pointing out your mistakes, sometimes loudly and in ways that may bring you to tears. But it’s totally worth the pain to get to the anti-racism outcome.
So, here’s the goal: White people, you need to participate in an activity that causes you to cross cultures and/or comfort zones. This suggestion comes from a recent study that says 75 percent of White people don’t have any close non-White friends. It also comes from watching the arguments when schools and neighborhoods begin to change demographics, and people freak out.
One of the leading causes of our racial issues in America is a lack of cultural diversity. Oftentimes, words like, “American,” “Western,” “traditional” or “upper-class” are code words for White culture.
True cultural diversity only exists when people recognize what culture is and understand it correctly and when different cultures are accepted without judging one as better or worse. Not “classy,” not “ghetto,” not “American,” not “un-American.” Culture doesn’t have a hierarchy; it has traditions and values to the members of that culture.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH WHITE CULTURE, EXCEPT WHEN IT BECOMES THE SECRET CODE THAT EXCLUDES PEOPLE OF COLOR (POC).But often times, White people don’t realize that their culture is just White culture. There is nothing wrong with White culture, except when it becomes the secret code that excludes people of color (POC). The way to begin to deconstruct this paradigm is to first recognize it exists, that it’s White, and that POC have different cultures.
Many White progressive people might instinctively reply that they already do lots of cross-cultural activities. They listen to non-White music, they eat at ethnic restaurants, they may have gone to a Black friend’s social event once or twice.
Here’s the bad news: that doesn’t count towards your cross-cultural diversity experience. Why? Mainly because you are doing it out of choice, not necessity. Further, you have the option to leave, opt out, whenever you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, without any consequence to your life. And because it is optional for you, it isn’t as important. That means yours is better.
With White culture, Black folks and most POC don’t have the “opt-out” option. We have to go to schools, learn your arts, your musicians, your specific linguistic preferences, and adapt to White ideas of “proper school behavior or social behavior” in order to survive in America.
Okay, so the warm-up summer activity to Racial Crossfit is this: choose from one of the items listed below to participate. And no, you don’t get to pick an activity that’s not on this menu.
I, your personal trainer, am intentionally providing your cultural options because that is the world POC operate in. White people define culture and we have to participate within those pre-set boundaries. In essence, I am just like the teachers, school administrators and policymakers who determine curriculum, what plays theater will produce, books students will read and discipline policies. Like our schools, this racial crossfit course is not a partnership where we come together to decide collectively what is “good culture.” I’m telling you what good culture is and it is mine, Black culture.
Does this hurt? Seem unfair? Shouldn’t you be able to determine for yourself what you want to be your “quality cultural experience?” NO! (in my cross-fit trainer voice!)
White supremacy/racial inequality does not allow POC to “choose” which parts of White culture they will embrace. We have to learn it all (White cultural appropriate names, dress codes, hair styles, social behavioral norms), or we, POC, don’t get jobs, good grades, mortgages, etc. Remember this is just the warmup. It’s going to get a lot tougher. Get ready to do some hard work!
HOW TO GET OUT OF YOUR WHITE COMFORT ZONE
Please undertake at least three of the following activities: to get an A, your activities must total 20 points.
- Attend a Black concert or festival in a location where you will be the racial minority. (Jazz festival with a majority White crowd doesn’t count.) (5 pts.)
- Attend a religious service that is racially/religiously different from your usual one. White people in Chicago, I highly suggest my church, Trinity United Church of Christ. (5 pts.)
- Go to a restaurant in an all-Black community owned by Black people. Extra credit point for going to my favorite restaurant Garifuna Flava. Write about any feelings that arise and then reflect on how many restaurants where you usually eat are owned by White people and located in White communities. (5 pts.)
- Attend a football game at an Historically Black College or University. (5pts)
- Volunteer at a non-profit organization that is run and funded primarily by Black people. (10pts) Examples:
Before you volunteer at any of these organizations, this video is mandatory watching.
- Purchase Tidal for $9.99. Watch and listen carefully to the music videos “Lemonade” by Beyonce and “4:44” by Jay-Z, and write a standard book report answering the following questions:
- What does “hot sauce” represent in “Formation?”
- What is the “curse” Beyonce is discussing in Lemonade? Describe a parallel articulated by another Black female artist.
- On which philosophical side would you put Beyonce and Jay Z; Black integrationist or nationalist? Give examples in their music and compare them to statements from at least three African-American philosophical leaders.
- Compare and contrast Jay Z’s viewpoint on the ongoing struggle of Black men and women’s relationships to Beyonce’s viewpoint? (10pts.)
- Read one historical and one contemporary analysis of racial problems in the United States. You may choose from these three historical titles: The Isis Papers or The Destruction of Black Civilization. Then choose one of these three contemporary titles: The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me or How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. After your readings are complete, write a three-page summary about how White supremacy has worked historically and continues to hold back Black America. Give examples from both a Black integrationist and a Black nationalist perspective. (15 points)
If this last assignment seems especially difficult, that’s because it is. You’re being asked to take a test prepared by a Black teacher, from a Black perspective. And no, you can’t answer, “this is some b.s.” Even though that is the reaction of every person of color who has ever taken a standard U.S. history course.
I understand, as do most teachers, students aren’t going to do their summer assignments because of lack of accountability or grades. I am still hopeful that you will extend yourself and complete your summer assignment, just as teachers expect their students to come to school in fall prepared. Let me know how your homework is going in the comments.
I look forward to “grading” your work!
ShaRhonda Knott Dawson is the mother of two free-spirited, strong-willed girls and has a husband who should be appointed a saint for co-existing in the madness that is their life. She writes on politics, education, current events and social justice. She is also a taco enthusiast, a proud member of the Bey-hive, and truly believes that she will be receiving her letter from Hogwarts any day now.
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