Remember the classic example of the loaded question? It's "When did you stop beating your wife?" If you don't have a wife, or the only thing you've ever beaten in your life is an egg, you'd probably be taken aback by that question.
Another example of a loaded question is one I heard this weekend when I volunteered at and participated in a workshop at the San Francisco Public Library called Talking With Kids About Race. Workshop leader, Dr. Micia Mosely, had just finished providing a few definitions, including one for race.* Without getting too much into the details, the first question a workshop participant asked Dr. Mosely was based on the idea that the eugenics movement was right, true, and founded on science.
Is this a shocking view to hold in the Bay Area in 2017? I thought it was. I wondered under my breath whether the person had been planted at the workshop by some hate group. I even started to wonder if the person would have to be removed. What happened next reminded me how to do better than that useless train of thought.
Dr. Mosely showed me how important it is to listen well and speak truth. She listened to the person intently, without interrupting, and then stated firmly that she would have to disagree. She explained that science has proven again and again that eugenics is baseless. She then went on to find, buried under all that white supremacy talk, something the person mentioned that was worth elevating: the richness of differences among humans. I still don't know exactly how she turned the question around, but I found myself wanting to listen to Dr. Mosely talk about pretty much anything, anytime.
My friend, Margaret, then reminded me how important it is to be bold. At our next workshop "break," Dr. Mosely instructed us to go introduce ourselves to at least five people we didn't know, stating our name, our race, and what had brought us to the workshop. My first introduction was to the person on my right, "Hi! I'm Kelly and I'm white. I'm here because I'm a parent." Margaret, on the other hand, made a beeline across the auditorium to introduce herself to that person who sounded like they thought eugenics was science. When I asked her about it later, she said in her matter-of-fact way, "That's just what I do. And did you see? That person stayed for the WHOLE workshop and appeared to be listening to everything!"
I have pages and pages of notes from the workshop because that's how I approach learning. I never want to miss or forget a single thing, so I write it all down. But my notes do not reflect the experience of the workshop itself, or the little transformations that happened (and are still happening) for me. I cannot recommend more highly a workshop like this, this workshop in particular, or, let's be honest, any of Dr. Mosely's events.**
After the workshop, I began some specific homework Dr. Mosely assigned, and I started doing some research on my own. I'm planning to read this dissertation by Gregory Peters which addresses in depth how to work through issues around race. As I understand it so far, the steps are: (1) Work Alone (journal, read, watch, learn who you are); (2) Work in Affinity (talk with people who are like you to work through issues); and (3) Work Across Difference (when and only when you have done steps 1 and 2, you can begin to bridge differences between groups). Even just knowing what to call these specific steps is helping me to plan my own work.
I also enjoyed watching "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love Discussing Race" by Jay Smooth, and reading this piece, addressing how perfectionism is an aspect of white supremacist culture.
I took away a lot from Dr. Mosely's workshop, including: The sooner you can get right with yourself and figure out who you are with respect to race, the sooner you can start bringing race into everyday, developmentally appropriate conversations with even very young children.
I'm ready for the work. I hope to see you there.
*In the workshop, we used the following definition of race: "[a] historically shifting, socially constructed human classification system to establish power by grouping people primarily by physical appearance/markers. Race is not a category that biological science can establish. It is therefore both an illusion--a social construction--and a reality: a lived experience with real-life consequences."
**As a white person, I've found SURJ to be an incredible resource for learning.