One request in the Riverton Peace Mission’s petition to the Riverton City Council is for training to address institutional racism for the city’s staff and officials. I know there is controversy about whether training does any good. I think that it does, depending on how it’s done.
Best practices are available that provide tools for what is most effective. I know that learning cultural humility is key. Being aware of our biases is important. We need to understand how past wrongs affects people today. We need to know that discrimination happens daily to people of color and that it affects their health and ability to achieve. Even after that, how to tackle structural racism woven into a community’s fabric requires a grasp that comes from studying the connections between causes and effects. This does not happen with one day of training, but that is where it can start.
To those who say that anti-training does not work, I agree if participants remain in denial that racism exists. It’s like anyone who is in denial of a problem, as with an addiction. The first step is to acknowledge that racism is pervasive and hurts everyone. Racism is a societal disease that takes a societal cure. It starts with individuals saying, “I am ready to learn.”
No buy-in from the top down within an organization is also when anti-racism training does not work. For example, mandatory training where the leadership does not see the need will for sure fail. I know of agencies where leadership will not allow subjects like discrimination, equity, and inclusion to be discussed – a sign of an unhealthy organization.
When an organization commits to address racism, there may be backlash. Employees may threaten to quit to avoid taking part in the necessary changes. When that happens, it’s probably time for that employee to move on before that person causes any further harm. Accommodating such employees only perpetuates the racism.
Anti-racism training can help. Let it begin!
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.