On June 18, 2019, EPIP held its first People of Color Network (PCN) Regional Gathering in Philadelphia in partnership with EPIP Philly. This half-day event, facilitated by The BIPOC Project, focused on the ways that white supremacy hinders coalition-building between communities of color and how to get past it to build solidarity. Attendees of the intimate convening included EPIP Philly steering committee members Kabria Rogers, who shares her reflections on the day.
Kabria Rogers: The workshop’s facilitators, Fiona and Merle, immediately resonated with me. Their friendship spoke volumes about the importance of solidarity and the melding of minds, skill sets, and cultures in the conversation about racial equity. It also showed me how implicit biases shape our perceptions. Given how different they appeared in demeanor and personality, I wondered how Fiona and Merle met each other and formed a partnership. While it initially seemed to me they would have very different perspectives and experiences, it became apparent during the course of the workshop that from doing their work and having authentic conversations, they’ve built a strong and honest partnership.
At the gathering, we first split into groups to discuss our experiences and found a few common indicators that have been used to designate and measure “whiteness” or lack thereof, like:
- The lightness or darkness of skin color
- The type of hair texture
- Willingness to assimilate socially (i.e. speaking standard English, losing your accent, choosing a name that fits in with white social norms)
- Cleansing parts of you that do not fit the white social norm (whether visible or invisible)
We also talked about why there can sometimes be in-fighting between POC communities. While we often use big categories like Black, Latinx, or Middle Eastern to describe people, those are broad labels - they can be broken down much further into cultural, geographical, and religious histories and nuances that can cause conflict within and between cultures. What we all have in common, though, is that at some point our histories have been systematically erased, whether it be by colonization, immigration, or migration.
One example of this is the disparities faced by Indigenous people. While there were no Indigenous people among the workshop’s participants, Merle shared some shocking statistics on the current and historical marginalization and oppression that they face. We were encouraged to think about the ways that Indigenous peoples are frequently erased from conversations about social justice and equity and discussed the ways that narratives are recreated about them to justify or perpetuate cultural, political, and economic injustices. An example of this could be the telling of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas and how it became a story of “discovery” instead of massacre. We discussed how white supremacy actively erases histories, culture and the horror stories of the past and replaces them with re-imagined stories of friendship, collaboration, and helpful cultural growth.
A Few Big Takeaways
- Educate yourself to learn the true history behind your culture and the cultures of other marginalized groups.
- Recognize your privilege and power (we all have some form of power or can access some form of privilege)
- While all of us have different stories, people of color have similar struggles when confronting how white supremacy impacts us and our communities. We are still seen as “the other.”
- Build relationships across various racial/ethnic communities. Solidarity is key and we are all extended family in our fight for justice.
- Endeavor to be patient with your journey - we are all growing and trying to find our place in the world.