Fighting Race-Baiting: No Easy Task

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Fighting Race-Baiting: No Easy Task

By Amy Hunter, Racial Justice Director
YWCA Metro St. Louis

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

These lyrics from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, point out that racism is not innate, but that it’s taught at an early age. As we know, these lyrics (albeit poetic and catchy) didn’t end racism in 1949. Efforts to create a racially-just society have spanned the decades, and continue today.  YWCA’s participation in Stand Against Racism makes it a unique and bold organization that is simultaneously working to empower women and eliminate racism.

Race-baiting is interwoven into the fabric of society. It takes complex strategies to realize systemic changes within organizations that can combat it, and that can promote personal growth as well as professional. The YWCA in St. Louis has introduced three initiatives: Sister Citizen Scholars, Witnessing Whiteness and So Reel, that are having an impact on our community’s ability to recognize and eradicate racial injustice.

  • Sister Citizen Scholars is a new program for teens, modeled on the highly regarded Sister Citizen, written by Melissa Harris-Perry.  High school girls from five area schools learn about the intersection of race and gender in school, the media and the community. These newly-informed scholars are then asked to lead sessions during the annual YWCA Middle School Leadership Conferences for middle-school girls, on the topics of self-awareness and racial justice.
  • Witnessing Whiteness is comprised of activists who identify as white. They are guided by Witnessing Whiteness, by Shelly Tochluk. This team of leaders meets for 20 weeks to learn about the impact of racism on people of color, and on their own lives. After the trianing, the group acts as a resource for the YWCA, serving as co-facilitators for future sessions. They become speakers in their churches and in the greater community. And they will pass on their knowledge to the next group, spreading the message of how white people can become allies for racial justice.
  • So Reel, in its fifth year, is a monthly community-wide speaker series that offers conversations on social justice. Sessions are interactive and include a video presentation, guest speakers and open discussions. So Reel offers a safe environment for questions and understanding, and assists in the healing process for the community at large.

In order for more people to help further the mission of the YWCA, consideration of how racism affects and hurts us all is paramount to building healthy and inclusive communities where each individual member is valued.

Learn more about the YWCA St. Louis and their programs, and visit them on Facebook.

Amy is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Justice. At the YWCA, Amy is responsible for ensuring the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is incorporated in all of the organization’s internal and external programming.  She has over 15 years of experience as a corporate and community organizer.   

Stand Against Racism logoThis post is part of the YWCA USA Stand Against Racism blog carnival on issues of race, justice and diversity. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.

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