Sample ice breaker questions:
Name and what brought you here, and if you were a super hero what superpower would you have?
We are having this conversation here, and others are having similar conversations across the state and country. We will talk about some of the deaths of black people at the hands of police in other parts of the country and the protests in response to this. Have people heard about the situation in Ferguson? (A black un armed teenager, Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. The community was upset by this and by the handling of the case and has been protesting ever since. The protests rose up again in Ferguson and also around the country after Darren Wilson was not indicted by the grand jury.) Since Ferguson there has also been Eric Garner choked by a police officer, and 12 year old Tamir Rice shot by police for having a toy gun. Closer to home, Dontre Hamilton was sleeping in Red Arrow Park, when he was woken by police officer Christopher Manny and ultimately shot 14 times while being unarmed. Manny was not indicted for this killing.
These events have highlighted some of the racial disparities and continued oppression that black people face in the US and WI. (You may want to highlight some of these statistics or have others read them)
From Center On Wisconsin Strategy: http://www.cows.org/_data/documents/1571.pdf
- In 2012, the African American unemployment rate in WI was 19 percent, an extremely high level. Nearly one- in-five black workers – a level calling to mind this nation’s Great Depression -- were unemployed. At the same time, just 6 percent of the white workforce was unemployed.
- Using data from the 2010 Census, Wisconsin posts the highest black male incarceration rate in the nation at 12.8 percent
- At 96 percent, Wisconsin has the highest white graduation rate in the nation. At the same time, Wisconsin’s African American graduation rate is 66 percent meaning that one-in-three black students in the state do not graduate on schedule, while nearly all white students do.
- The poverty rate for African American families in Wisconsin – 35 percent – should be a wake-up call for the state. More than one-in-three African American families live in poverty. Only Iowa has a higher rate of African American poverty. Further, our white poverty rate is nowhere near the worst in the nation. Six percent of the state’s white families are confronted by poverty.
The Black Lives Matter efforts have also called attention to the privilege that white people hold who are much less likely to be killed by the police, or arrested or incarcerated for similar crimes committed by people of color.
Let's begin with some guidelines
Talking about race can be challenging. Here are some guidelines to follow:
This will help us make sure we can create a space where people can get the most out of our time together.
- Come with an open mind and open heart
- Use I statements, speak from personal experience
- Step up/step back - if you're someone that doesn't often speak up, but your mind wants to say something, push yourself to step up. Likewise, if you're someone that's comfortable speaking up and have spoken a couple of times, challenge yourself to listen and give others an opportunity to speak.
- Challenge the behavior, respect the person - if you hear something that doesn't sit right with you, ask clarifying quesitons
- Active listening: when someone else is talking, push yourself to listen and don't think about what you are going to say next
- Lean into discomfort: for people who haven't talked about racism much it can be challenging and uncomfortable but it is important too.
Things to keep in mind. Road Blocks
- Arguing the details of each case acts as a distraction from facing core issues that black lives matter and black people are criminalized in this country.
- This is a great article you might want to pull a few examples from:
Now let's talk!
Choose one or both of the questions below and then have people pair up with the person next to them and discuss the question, make sure each person gets a chance to share. If you choose to do a different reading or watch a different video feel free to make up your own questions.
Watch this video of Tamir Rice being killed by police 2 seconds after pulling up at this park. Tamir is a 12 year old black child who was playing with a toy gun in a park.
Here is an article with an interview with his mother.
Can you imagine finding out that your 12 year old child or a child you know was killed by police 2 seconds after they arrived at a park where he was playing with a toy gun? What does this tell you about the way that black people are stereotyped as criminals? Is this as likely to happen to a white child?
Three black women came up with the slogan and the organization #BlackLivesMatter and it has gotten very popular. Why do you think this is a popular slogan and why wouldn't it be obvious that black lives matter? Why would it be important to say black lives matter and not all lives matter?
Here is a quote from Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter from her article on the herstory of the blacklivesmatter effort. http://blacklivesmatter.com/a-herstory-of-the-blacklivesmatter-movement/
When Black people get free, everybody gets free
When we deploy “All Lives Matter” as to correct an intervention specifically created to address anti-blackness, we lose the ways in which the state apparatus has built a program of genocide and repression mostly on the backs of Black people—beginning with the theft of millions of people for free labor—and then adapted it to control, murder, and profit off of other communities of color and immigrant communities.
When you drop “Black” from the equation of whose lives matter, and then fail to acknowledge it came from somewhere, you further a legacy of erasing Black lives and Black contributions from our movement legacy. And consider whether or not when dropping the Black you are, intentionally or unintentionally, erasing Black folks from the conversation or homogenizing very different experiences. The legacy and prevalence of anti-Black racism and hetero-patriarchy is a lynch pin holding together this unsustainable economy. And that’s not an accidental analogy....
And, perhaps more importantly, when Black people cry out in defense of our lives, which are uniquely, systematically, and savagely targeted by the state, we are asking you, our family, to stand with us in affirming Black lives. Not just all lives. Black lives. Please do not change the conversation by talking about how your life matters, too. It does, but we need less watered down unity and a more active solidarities with us, Black people, unwaveringly, in defense of our humanity. Our collective futures depend on it.
This exercise is borrowed from Showing Up for Racial Justice's Tooklit on Police Brutality which can be found here: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/archives/2016
It is tempting to separate ourselves from other people of our same race who disagree with us on this or other racial justice matters. It can be painful to know that someone you know or care about holds views that you know to be biased. However, as people committed to racial justice, a powerful way to create change is to engage people of our same race in dialogue, to see talking about race with them as our responsibility. These questions are specifically tailored to white people talking with other white people, but may be relevant for other people of color as well, or for people of color talking to white people. Think back to how your analysis and perspective were shaped:
-- Listen well to what the other person is saying, and why they see things the way that they do. -- Ask questions to help clarify. -- Withhold judgement. The goal is to move them forward, not to prove something about yourself.
The following are some suggestions for how to respond to conclusions white people often come to around police brutality. The goal is not to read these as a script, feel free to modify as makes sense for your conversations and life. We also included some questions that spark deeper conversations: Partner with someone and play the roles which might come with each comment and response. After practicing talking from these points of view, then discuss the question.
After 5 minutes switch and partner with someone else.
- Comment: "But the murder of Michael Brown was an exception." Response: “ There is a pattern of police violence against black men, especially young ones. In just the last few weeks, 4 unarmed black men have been gunned down by the police.” Discussion question: How has police brutality affected your community?
- Comment: "We should let the legal system take its course. If the policeman did something wrong, he’ll be convicted. Response: “The legal system is biased against people of color. For example, African Americans are twice as likely as whites to receive the death penalty." Discussion Question: “How do you see bias in the criminal justice system playing out in your neighborhood, town, region?”
- Comment: "Demonstrations don’t accomplish anything. In fact, they make things worse. Especially stopping traffic which alienates people who would otherwise support” Response: “If it had not been for the visible community response, we would never have heard about Michael Brown. Most police murders of black men never come to light. Besides, demonstrations are a form of peaceful assembly that is protected by the Bill of Rights. Being stopped in traffic is a minor inconvenience for a major injustice. These types of protests have brought about civil rights changes, union victories, and the end to the vietnam war which are generally regarded as successes in history.” Discussion question: “How do you think we can show that all lives--including African Americans and other people of color-- matter?”
- Comment: “Well, it’s too bad about Michael Brown, but what does it have to do with me?” Response: “Police brutality is a threat to our basic freedoms, including the right to live in a peaceful society governed by the rule of law. White people need to stand up for racial justice, in public ways.” Discussion Question: “What do you think could make the legal system work for all people?"
- Comment: “But what can I do about it? I’m just one person.” Response: In American history, individuals coming together have made real changes, such as the end to slavery, Jim Crow laws, and DOMA. In fact, things don’t change without attention, pressure and mobilization. The police brutality toolkit produced by SURJ suggests actions ranging from one-minute to one-hour and beyond. There are further actions for WI residents in this toolkit.” Discussion Question: “What can we do today to engage more people more deeply?”
- Hand out the action steps listed above to everyone and go over them together.
- You might want to plan another meeting, or plan a collective action together.
- You might want everyone to make a phone call, sign a petition, write a letter to the editor, or send an e-mail while in the meeting together.
- Go around in a circle and answer the questions:
- What is one thing that you learned and what is one action step that you are going to take?