The University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work is offering a 12-step webinar series that is based on Alcoholics Anonymous and is meant to help people “recover” from being white.
The program was launched by therapist Cristina Combs, an alumna of the school, and the plan is outlined in Part 1 of the series, “Recovery from White Conditioning: Building Anti-Racist Practice and Community.”
The webinar’s website states that Combs, who happens to be white herself, created the plan “after years of struggling to navigate the role and presence of whiteness in her personal, academic, and professional journeys.”
“In this model, we are, in fact, centering whiteness, but we are centering it differently: to expose it, study its patterns, and to transform its violent legacy,” Combs said at the start of her lecture, according to College Fix.
“I am on traditional Dakota land,” she added, referring to the Native American tribe that originally settled in Minnesota. Combs then went on to acknowledge “George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all of the other lives stolen from families and communities and our world due to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence.”
Once all of that was out of the way, Combs explained that the point of the lecture was to “decenter whiteness.”
“What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘white supremacy?’” she asked, proceeding to answer the question by showing a slide that depicted pictures of Ku Klux Klan members as well as white nationalists in Charlottesville. Combs then removed the images and showed a side of just her face.
“When BIPOC activists would use the term ‘white supremacy’ to talk about the systems that needed to change and the work that white people needed to do, my instinct was to recoil. It felt like too hard or too raw of a word, and I didn’t like it. And I ultimately realized that that is my ego,” she explained. “Stepping into that tension and accepting my connection to white supremacy has been a freedom of sorts to show up in better alignment with my values and do the work for the rest of my life.”
Finally, Combs revealed her specific 12-step plan, which can be seen in the powerpoint for the lecture:
Step 1: “We admitted that we had been socially conditioned by the ideology of white supremacy—that our minds were subject to racial biases, often unconsciously so.”
Step 2: “We came to believe that we could embrace our ignorance as an invitation to learn.”
Step 3: “We develop support systems to keep us engaged in this work.”
Step 4: “We journeyed boldly inward, exploring and acknowledging ways in which white supremacist teachings have been integrated into our minds and spirits.”
Step 5: “We confessed our mistakes and failings to ourselves and others.”
Step 6: “We were entirely ready to deconstruct previous ways of knowing, as they have been developed through the lens of white supremacy.”
Step 7: “We humbly explored new ways of understanding…proactively seeking out new learning and reconstructing a more inclusive sense of reality.”
Step 8: “We committed ourselves to ongoing study of our racial biases, conscious or unconscious, and our maladaptive patterns of white supremacist thinking.”
Step 9: “We develop strategies to counteract our racial biases.”
Step 10: “We embraced the responsibility of focusing on our impact, more than our intentions, in interactions with people of color.”
Step 11: “We engage in daily practices of self-reflection.”
Step 12: “We committed ourselves to sharing this message with our white brothers, sisters, and siblings…in order to build a supportive recovery community and to encourage personal accountability within our culture.
Oh boy. If that isn’t racism, I don’t know what is!
This piece was written by James Samson on October 17, 2020. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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