Racism is a fraught topic – how do you address it effectively? The Australian Human Rights has published a very clear and simple guide for organisations so they can address racism in the workplace. Here is an extract.
This question sets up the whole substantive discussion. Participants may be quiet at first (this is normal at the start of any discussion of this nature). One way of handling this is to ask participants to write down any initial thoughts that come to mind on a post-it note and stick it up on the whiteboard or wall. Give participants a few minutes to do this. The notes can act as prompts for discussion.
Feel comfortable to use additional prompts, and consider asking individual participants to share their thoughts if you sense they might have something to contribute. Participants may wish to focus more on their personal lives and society at large rather than the organisational context, but this is fine for Question 1.
This question is designed to introduce participants to conceptual understandings of racism. Consider it optional for facilitators who feel comfortable introducing the topic of racism in a conceptual way before asking about participants’ personal experiences.
Ask participants to quietly read the ‘Defining racism’ section of their Participant Information Sheet. Consider asking the following questions:
Allow participants a few minutes to discuss these questions in small groups, and report back to the wider group.
Then, consider showing the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2017 Community Service Announcement videos ‘Taxi’ and ‘Elevator’, or the New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s video ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ to continue the discussion (see below).
Invite participants to share their reflections on these videos. Do they align with what participants consider to be ‘racism’?
Suggested points for discussion:
This question moves the discussion from the big picture to the specific. Facilitators may need to remind participants of the Chatham House rule, and the set of ground rules that the group agreed to before to the discussion. Bear in mind that if people are willing to share their experiences, they may become emotional while telling their stories. Facilitators should comfort the person and remind the rest of the group that some level of discomfort is to be expected in these conversations. Those in the room who may not have experienced racism might, for the first time, be witnessing its impacts on people they know. This can be confronting, but it is valuable.
Ensure that if people do become emotional they have the option of withdrawing from the conversation or taking some time out in a separate, safe space without judgement.
This question asks participants to reflect on their own past and prospective behaviour as bystanders of racist behaviour. Some participants may suggest language or other behaviour that can be employed to effectively challenge interpersonal racism, including in an organisational context. Others may reflect on their role in supporting anti-racist causes or campaigns. The discussion that ensues may involve some critical reflection on existing organisational processes, or the organisation’s overall approach to racism. Let participants have their say. If appropriate, connect this discussion back to examples raised in response to Question 3 to provide specific examples.
This question should commence the process of wrapping up the conversation, by putting the onus back on the organisation to take action against racism based on people’s reflections relating to conversation questions 1-4.
Participants may suggest changes to procedures or processes, or identify organisational cultural issues that may be able to be better addressed, for example:
Make a note of all suggestions. Consider using the whiteboard to jot them down for everyone to see or ask participants to write them down on post-it notes and place them on the whiteboard.
Question for the group: What does this video tell us about how we talk about race and identity?
Videos 2, 3 and 4:
Question for the group: How does racism play out in these videos?
Question for the group: What does this video reveal about racism and responsibility?
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