A civil rights activist contends it’s not the job of black people to stop white people from being racist. That, she argues, is the responsibility mostly of whites.
Hannah Jacoby, a founding member of the Chicago Alliance for Racial Equity (CARE), argues that point. Last, month, her organization hosted its first Anti-Racism Workshop for White Allies to train Caucasians to work better with minority groups in combating racism.
“Everything we try to do here is with the intention of movement building,” said Jacoby, a special project’s coordinator for the alliance. “It shouldn’t always be the work of people of color to stop white people from being racist or to inform white people that they are being racist.”
The organization was created by white staff members and supporters of the Chicago Freedom School to teach members of the white community how to be effective allies with minorities.
The nonprofit Freedom School is located at 719 S. State. It provides a place for adults and youth to come together to learn about social movements, and teaches young people to be social activists.
To break the racial barriers that often hinder the community, the alliance, Jacoby explains, felt the need to take part in encouraging positive social movements in Chicago. They look to enlighten the white community, she says, by having them examine their own attitudes. Their comments and treatment of minorities, she argues, can create a negative relationship between them and other races.
“We all have a lot of intersecting identities that make the experience of being white, or the experience of any race, different for everyone, depending on your sexuality, your gender, your class,” Jacoby said. “But there are certain things about being white that bring privileges, even if you happened to also be queer or poor-and you have to acknowledge those.”
After six months of developing the material, knowledge and support needed for the workshop, the alliance opened the class to those interested-more than a dozen attended.
“We really want people to be doing a lot of sharing and talking about their experience and if it gets bigger than that it just gets hard to have everyone share without having it taking a really long time,” Jacoby said.
She worked closely with several of her black and Hispanic colleagues at the Freedom School, garnering a great deal of support for the initiative. The three-hour workshop was open to anyone interested in participating-white people primarily signed up for it.
Jacoby said that while the workshop was created to target white people, she welcomed attendance from any person of color.
“One the points that we want to get across from the training is that we, as white people, have to get to a point where it doesn’t matter if a person of color is in the room for us to be doing this work-we have to be doing this work all the time.”