Agree to Be Offended re: Race & Racism


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This is a presentation I gave at the Conference for Global Transformation in San Francisco May 2008. It is an idea developed with my students in a hip-hop class in 2005.

Published in: Spiritual
  • You're a testament to "agree to be offended" and why #BlackLivesMatter is needed, necessary and nascent. I'm sorry for you @Jack Smith I hope you've evolved.
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  • All of the crummy slide shows on SLIDESHARE are black racist, black supremacist or black cultural domination propaganda. The truth is totally ignored, denied and suppressed and the criminally false image of black racists as 'victims' entitled to our earnings and to be our bosses on account of skin color only, is preached over and over and over. You sheeple are eating that crap. digesting it and puking it out like so many cowardly fools without honor or honesty. SLIDESHARE IS RACIST!
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  • With my work in this area, I began to speculate what it would be like to really be with any communication including what offends me about my being black or others being racist. We have made racism and being racist so wrong we often generalize what racism is. So let’s get what’s so about it.
  • Agree to Be Offended re: Race & Racism

    1. 1. Without racism, I wonder if we would have known Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. - Tolstoy Soundtrack: “Luqman,” Me’shell Ndegeocello Presents The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance of The Infidel
    2. 2. “ Agree to be Offended”™ Curious Connections in Conversations of Race Assoc. Professor Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D. Cultural Anthropologist/Ethnomusicologist © 2008 This workshop was first presented at 2008 Conference for Global Transformation, San Francisco, May 18, 2008 with 53 participants from U.S., Canada and Europe. Second highest rating of any conference session (4.71 out of 5.00).
    3. 3. Introduction <ul><li>“ Agree to be Offended” ™ is a strategy for facing any kind of difference but particularly racism - a distraction that keeps people from a future that works for all. </li></ul><ul><li>Race may be &quot;a pigment of our imagination&quot; , but in conversations of race we often end up stuck being offended (Gaunt 2006). </li></ul>
    4. 4. This is what we think a “racist” looks like. But this is about you and the racism in your life.
    5. 5. Once Upon a Time, I Was Offended… The “Black Ring” in Pretty Pretty Princess If you get the black ring, you can play but you can never win. … While visiting a fellow student of color, I played Pretty, Pretty Princess with a 5 and 7 year-old black girl and boy, respectively. Would you believe… It was around 1992 and I was in grad school at U of Michigan. I was on a minority student fellowship…
    6. 6. “ Don’t Take Things Personally” <ul><li>Throughout school, we are told to not take things personally. Use “I” statements, they say. </li></ul><ul><li>In a hip-hop class at NYU in June of 2005, my students and I saw that no matter what we say, people always take things personally . </li></ul><ul><li>A rather disinterested Korean woman in class proposed an alternative: ”Why don’t we agree to be offended?&quot; This was the start of a journey to transform how we resist being offended about race and racism. </li></ul>
    7. 7. We Say “Don’t Take Things Personally” but in reality we are…
    8. 8. <ul><ul><ul><li>Racial myths bear no relationship to the reality of human capabilities or behavior (AAA Statement on Race, 1998). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>&quot; [Racism] is not about how you look, it's about how people assign meaning to how you look.&quot; – Robin Kelley </li></ul></ul></ul>
    9. 9. How to Define “Offend” from Merriam Webster Online <ul><li>Pronunciation: ə-ˈfend </li></ul><ul><li>Function: verb </li></ul><ul><li>intransitive verb 1 a: to transgress the moral or divine law : sin < if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive — Shakespeare > b: to violate a law or rule : do wrong <offend against the law>. </li></ul><ul><li>2 a: to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury < took off his shoe and removed the offending pebble >. b: to cause dislike, anger, or vexation < thoughtless words that offend needlessly > </li></ul><ul><li>transitive verb 1 a: violate, transgress b: to cause pain to : hurt … </li></ul><ul><li>3: to cause to feel vexation or resentment usually by violation of what is proper or fitting < was offended by their language > — of·fend·er noun </li></ul><ul><li>We are vexed about : Hip-hop , terrorism , youth , parents , crime , the wrong neighbors/friends , education , racists , sexists , & homosexuals’ kissing . </li></ul>
    10. 10. You ARE NOT racist (like an object) In Javanese, the word “is” does not exist unlike in English. Without this verb, you can only speak of someone being racist. That allows us explore how we are being, doing or having racial or racist thoughts, feelings, and actions without being objectified.
    11. 11. Useful Working Definitions of Racism <ul><li>The learned belief that one “racial group” is inferior or superior to another. </li></ul><ul><li>The learned practices, attitudes, thoughts, expressions, suspicions, and representations that maintain an inferior view of the dominated group. </li></ul><ul><li>The stigmatizing of difference along lines of ‘racial’ or physical characteristics real or imagined. </li></ul><ul><li>Often a “rational” response to our fear of others; xenophobia & self-hate (i.e., the black dolls are dirty). </li></ul><ul><li>Making others different in order to justify an advantage/ invalidate a disadvantage. </li></ul><ul><li>Race is a social construct - a learned concept or practice which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality is an invention of a particular culture or society. </li></ul>Notice it’s not simply about skin-color privilege. When did you first experience one of these definitions?
    12. 12. How did we learn to be racial/racist in the U.S.? <ul><li>Race and freedom evolved about same time </li></ul><ul><li>1) “We hold these truths to be self-evident… all men are created equal ” (1776). </li></ul><ul><li>2) Thomas Jefferson denied rights and freedom to African slaves and Native Americans in Notes on the State of Virginia (1781). US slavery was first system where slaves shared the same stigmatizing physical trait - black/dark skin, African origin. This was a “ caste system” ascribed at birth to people of African descent living a nation defined by its achieved status (American dream) but only for whites and immigrants given white privilege. </li></ul>
    13. 13. How did we learn to be racial/racist in the U.S. in 20th Century? <ul><li>White superiority became “common sense,” a widely held view often under-examined but accepted as true. </li></ul><ul><li>Racial practices were institutionalized – i.e., Jim Crow laws, “separate but equal” schooling and housing, redlining, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Anti-miscegenation : In 1967 , 17 Southern states -- all the former slave states plus Oklahoma -- still enforced laws prohibiting marriage between whites and non-whites. </li></ul><ul><li>It took South Carolina until 1998 and Alabama until 2000 to remove defunct anti-miscegenation laws in a referendum vote. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NOTE: 48% of voters in South Carolina and 41% of voters in Alabama voted to keep these laws intact. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pictured above: Who were Richard and Mildred Loving (1967)? </li></ul>
    14. 14. “ Race” ≠ Difference <ul><li>The global conversation of racial difference is a superstition. </li></ul><ul><li>It distracts us from being with the remarkable oneness of humanity. </li></ul>Us / Them … They / We Hutu and Tutsi Palestinian and Israeli Skinheads and Racial Others Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Bahai The Roma, Forest People, and Dalits Immigrant, Illegal Alien, A ü slander
    15. 15. When we remove “race”, we find out that humans are just plain afraid of each other. 1972 NYC Subway Experiment (M. Luo, NYTimes 9.14.04) Experiment: “Excuse me, may I have your seat?” Most researchers got sick before they asked. If they did ask, the answer was always…Yes!
    16. 16. We resist being offended about Race <ul><li>How do you get stuck with racism? </li></ul><ul><li>You hide what you really think and stop communicating </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid who and/or what got under your skin </li></ul><ul><li>You make them different: You get to be “better” and they are “wrong” </li></ul><ul><li>You gossip about it as you’re the victim (invalidating their disadvantage): “You won’t believe what he/she said!…” </li></ul>The Banlieue riots in France suburbs, 2006
    17. 17. Fear of others underlies racism <ul><li>Not unlike fear, everyone is affected (not infected) by race, whether you aware of it, like it, or are from U.S. or not -- it’s there. </li></ul><ul><li>Race isn’t biological, but racism and white-skin privilege are real … as a conversation (on speed dial). </li></ul><ul><li>Race/Ethnicity are also a global conversation (in India, Japan, Brazil, Trinidad, and Russia, for example . ). </li></ul>
    18. 18. Group Exercise: Revisit a Useful Failure <ul><li>Take a minute or two - Recall your earliest memory around being offended about race and racism? </li></ul><ul><li>Pair Share - Pick a partner (3 minutes each) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How old you were? Who was there? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What happened? What was actually said/done? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What did it mean about you, others, or life? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sharing with the larger group: What would have been available if you had had Agreed to be Offended™ and stayed in the conversation? What could you say? </li></ul>Jane Elliot’s Class
    19. 19. Agree to be Offended ™ and stay in the conversation! <ul><li>What does it make available… </li></ul><ul><li>Facing useful failures with courage, compassion & even humor </li></ul><ul><li>The freedom to be offended and make a difference </li></ul><ul><li>The impossible becomes possible in one conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Transform the illusion of difference with velocity. </li></ul>Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D. © 2008
    20. 20. Questions for YouTube comments <ul><li>Did you get value from Agree to be Offended™ and stay in the conversation anyhow? Is it useful? </li></ul><ul><li>How might it impact your commitments at work, at home, in your community or in the world? </li></ul><ul><li>If those commitments were fulfilled right now given your response, what would become available for you and your life? </li></ul><ul><li>Share this with three people. Book a workshop for your organization and join my mailing list at… </li></ul><ul><li>Knowl edge </li></ul>
    21. 21. RACISM IS A RESOURCE FOR MIRACLES <ul><li>Curious Connections for Opposable Thumbs™ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The adaptation of opposable thumbs made precision gripping possible followed by a series of complex adaptations -- the development of tools which probably led to our ability to walk upright . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarly , by revisiting how we learned to be racist , we refine our grasp on race fostering a series of complex adaptations -- the capacity to empower diversity/difference and fulfill on “all [humans] are created equal” in our lifetime . </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. GAUNT’S PROMISE <ul><li>“ I promise a world by 2036 where all people embrace and empower any communication, eye to eye with the remarkable oneness of humanity. </li></ul><ul><li>How will I know this is so? The illusion of difference will be a superstition of the past” (Gaunt 2007). </li></ul><ul><li>Help us fulfill on this promise! BOOK A WORKSHOP at [email_address] or visit </li></ul>
    23. 23. RESOURCES <ul><li>AAA Statement on Race . May 17, 1998. American Anthropological Association. http://dev. aaanet .org/issues/policy-advocacy/AAA-Statement-on-Race.cfm </li></ul><ul><li>Gaunt, Kyra D. 2006. The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-hop ( New York: NYU Press). Co-Winner of 2007 Merriam Prize for most outstanding book from the Society for Ethnomusicology and Finalist in the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Book Award . </li></ul><ul><li>RACE Are We So Different? (A Project of the American Anthropological Association) http://www. understandingrace .org/ . </li></ul>BOOK A WORKSHOP TODAY! Join my mailing list for tele-classes & podcasts.
    24. 24. THANK YOU! This workshop was made possible by… My participation in Landmark Education, the Wisdom Division, the Discourse Calls, the Conference for Global Transformation, and esp. my fellow graduates Laurie and Emil Rufolo and Debbie Baker. My students (over 700) esp. the 2005 summer hip-hop course at NYU and my colleagues at the Univ. of Michigan, Univ. of Virginia, NYU, and Baruch College-CUNY. Thanks to Chrysalis Interactive, too. Students and teachers cannot create what’s possible for the world without one another. Kyra D. Gaunt, Ph.D. PLEASE RATE THIS & COMMENT BELOW