Engaging Race in White, Rural America
Rural Race Dialogues aims to engage white, rural, communities of faith in conversations and strategic action on race and racism, while building skills for compassion, curiosity, and relationship in the midst of difference.
Methods: We use contemplative practice, art, storytelling, lived histories, herstories and testimonials, and experiential learning to engage white communities in an embodied and relational awareness of the history of immigration and racial identity in the United States as it relates to racism and white identity today.
Grounding: Our work is grounded in the practice of compassion as people of faith. We work from the belief that our natural mode of being in the world is one of compassion, and that understanding our internal and historical lives supports engaged compassion with others. This is why our work includes the history of European immigration and assimilation-- a process that resulted in whiteness-- as one place for white people to develop a critical awareness of history as a place for compassion and curiosity.
We believe racial justice work is sacred work. We believe white folks have an important role in engaging other white folks in dismantling racial hierarchies and co-creating vibrant multi-racial communities, coalitions and actions.
To read about our first Rural Race Dialogue event, click the "Read More" tab.
Theory of Change
RRD’s theory of change is based in multiple identity development theories and informed by leaders in anti-racist practice. Foundational to our work is the belief that white people in the United States are often very unaware of the extent to which their lives have been shaped by race and racism. When confronted with conversations about the role of racial socialization in their lives, many white community members disengage and disconnect, becoming defensive or paralyzed by guilt and shame.
In some models of stage-based identity development theory, many of our white community members may be categorized as a group of people who are either (1) polarized by racial and cultural difference (“Those people are a threat to us!”) or (2) minimizing racial and cultural difference (“We are all children of God—I don’t see color/difference”). RRD works to craft resources to engage these specific groups of white people. We focus on raising awareness as to the reality of different racialized and cultural experiences in the United States, the impact of these forces on our lives, and cultivating a curiosity about what the differences mean to people in our local communities. We focus on supporting white participants in identifying the very real, different experiences of cultural and racial groups in the United States— including those who are white. We believe we can grow appreciation and respect for one another when we realize our own cultural identities. By deepening our awareness of ourselves, we are better able to build relationship and honest, beloved, multi-racial community.
We believe, as white community members cultivate curiosity and relationship around lived experiences of difference in their community, they become more able to address racism and take effective action in their personal and local lives as people of faith. We also recognize that outsiders (i.e. visiting consultants, guest preachers, outside organizations) can facilitate higher risk experiences that can ultimately activate community members to engage in the existing, ongoing work of local organizations. We want RRD events to ultimately activate participants to engage in new and ongoing local learning, organizing, and faith-development efforts.
We must have conversations and shared experiences that build the self-reflective and interpersonal skills to work for racial justice in our lives and communities.
Systems of racial injustice impacts each of us. Creating racial justice will take all of us. We need to develop ways to engage more people in this conversation and in our community-based actions.
A network of organized and engaged rural, white, faith-based communities will be a powerful resource for local and national racial justice.
Rural Race Dialogue began in 2016 by two white, women clergy in an effort to craft faith-deepening, experiential, community-based learning for shared action on racial and cultural welcome, equity, and justice. Our target audience is rural, predominantly white, Christian faith communities in which participants are beginning conversations about intercultural dialogue, race/racism, and the history of race/racism in the United States. The organization is in its early stages and has piloted its experiential learning module with over 100 Christian leaders from 2016-2018.
As part of our learning events, we also support local, white clergy in connecting to and building relationships with local organizations led by People of Color (POC), and directing congregational action and resources to local, POC-led organizing efforts.