Training Processes in Intergroup Dialogue (Syllabus), EDP 369K, Spring 2005
Teresa Brett, Dean of Students
Kyle Clark, Student Affairs Administer
Aqualus Gordon, Graduate Student of Educational Psychology
Kristen Jones, Student Affairs Administer
Betty Taylor, Senior Program Coordinator
Intergroup Dialogue is a course that allowed me to explore issues of social group identity, conflict, community, and social justice with other students.
I have spent a lot of time exploring social justice issues but I was really interested in how the United States grows more diverse. Questions that had always challenged me had become unavoidable such as: How do we live with and learn from people who think, believe, and behave differently from us? How do we teach our children to respect such differences? How can we accept oppression as a community and never fight against it? I was guided towards a program called Intergroup Dialogue [IGD].
IGD was a course that allowed me to explore issues of social group identity, conflict, community, and social justice with other students. It was facilitated by two trained students. My first dialogue experience was titled, "Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Heterosexuals." It allowed us to discuss the differences and similarities specifically in the GLBT community and the heterosexual community, so that we may better understand each other.
After this course, I decided to apply to become a trained facilitator. I was accepted and the next semester, I started understanding privilege and how it worked in American Society. IGD didn't give me a fish, it taught me how to fish! There was no right answer to how oppression and privilege work in our society, but it gave me the tools and leadership abilities to explore my underlying questions.
Unlike many of my other courses, I have a hard time explaining all I learned in this course. I decided the best way to give an idea of what I learned is by sharing an excerpt from my final paper from my IGD Facilitation course:
I am looking to make a change...
I think I have a catch phrase now; I can't change my target group as much as I can change my agent group. I can't change who I was born to be, but I can be an ally.
I want to talk about my reflections on making those changes in society. In Allan's book, "Privilege, Power and Difference," he spoke a lot about societal change and how it could only happening at a community level. The norms and stereotypes that we live by daily must be broken down to make a dent in privilege and oppressed identities. I spent most of the semester confused by this concept. I, me, is one person, making it an individual level. Every time I hear someone using catch phrases such as "that's so gay" and explain I don't think those phrases are positive I am making a dent on an individual level. I don't understand how societies can change if there is no change on an individual level. People have to change and though those people can make a community, one person can start to make a dent.
Allan used an analogy of people playing a game of Monopoly. He said "If no one plays Monopoly, it's just a box full of stuff with writing inside the cover. When people open it up and identify themselves as players, however, Monopoly starts to happen." Now I agree with this, if what he is saying is, I have to start making social changes by changing my own path. I thought of ideas to maybe change my own path. I need to relearn my negative behaviors and ideas to help end oppression. I need to understand my privilege (which I honestly believe I do). My last idea is something our final Assessment showed, I need to gain knowledge on topics that I have agent status in. Though I am fairly well informed, I don't know everything. I need to keep learning and studying and most importantly stay up to date on new happenings that affect the system of -isms.
Allan said, "If we have a vision of what we want social life to look like, we have to create paths that lead in that direction." He is talking about "we". If we want society to change, it has to change on an individual level, but if we don't all change then it might not make much of a difference. I related Allan's ideas to the activity we did on the Web of Oppression. All of us as individuals help keep oppression in society. One or two individuals can drop their strings and though the web is less dense, others are holding up the web still and tightening it. We must work as individuals within a community to make change. The best change comes from what I said before, I person of agent status must take some initiative to help persons of target status.
I am white...
The statement "I am white" brings so much guilt and anguish because I can't do anything about it. Last semester, I constantly felt I was being attacked for being white even though some in the dialogue were not attacking white people individually but as a society. I couldn't conceive that because I had "white privilege" I was a racist. I couldn't conceive that white people in our society are born racist. I felt as if I was personally being attacked by this discussion.
My views have changed over time. At the beginning of the semester when we were in race caucus groups I still had some of these bent frustrations about guilt and anxiety for being white. I also felt I didn't know enough about biracial issues after meeting and hearing from the biracial caucus group. Though this was not a required reading, I felt moved by its title, "Moving beyond White Guilt" by Amy Edgington. This has brought me to a new level of understanding about white privilege. One fact, is I know own my privilege. I see things I receive now for being white, that I might not have ever realized if I hadn't taken these courses. How I have been able to resolve my own guilt for having privilege is using Edgington's idea, "The strongest antidote to guilt is action." I don't feel as guilty if I am helping end the oppressions. A few forms of action to take is being informed about the issues, not sharing in the racism such as telling a joke, by listening and realizing issues people of color face, and by talking, especially with other white people. I believe I have moved past my ideas I had at the beginning of the semester.