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Breaking White Silence: Consciousness-Raising Study Groups Talk About White Privilege and Racism

The Phinney Neighborhood Association started an ambitious project that grew out of their Difficult Conversations Series on Race in 2016. A small steering committee was formed called Breaking White Silence. The name is derived from a quote by Aliza Garza, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

“We need you defecting from white supremacy and changing the narrative of white supremacy by breaking white silence.”

Our Breaking White Silence steering committee started meeting regularly at the Greenwood Senior Center and a commitment to do some more in-depth consciousness raising on race became the goal.

Breaking White Silence Steering Committee members include Walter McGeery, Jan Thomas, Mary Holscher (standing); Karen Schneider and Cecily Kaplan (seated); Missing: Mary Latham and Chuck Richards.

Using the book What Does It Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, the Phinney Neighborhood Association held an open gathering for people who might want to be facilitators of large or small book groups that are open to public, or those that might be with a group of friends or colleagues. Thirty-one people came to this first open call and 14 groups met between February─June 2017 in the north end of Seattle. Groups are intergenerational. Some were in churches and synagogues. Some were at the Phinney Neighborhood Association and Greenwood Senior Center. But many were in people’s homes and coffee shops. A generous gift of 50 books from a donor enabled us to make available to those who could not afford the book.

What Does It Mean to Be White? encourages personal reflection and conversation and these study groups are a first step to open up conversations about whiteness, white privilege, and racism.

A second open call just took place in September with over 25 attendees and as of this date we know of 10 groups that will be starting in January 2018. We ended the first round of book groups with a potluck for those who participated in a book group and they had an opportunity to share their experience with each other and have a Q&A with Robin DiAngelo. Plans are being made for another culminating gathering.

To hear more or to learn about open groups, click here, e-mail cecily@phinneycenter.org, or call 206-297-0875.


Contributor Cecily Kaplan directs senior programs at the Phinney Neighborhood Association.

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