We’ve been running an experiment. What happens when you put five people in a room to read, learn, debate and struggle with how to translate our multiracial community into a catalyst for action? (I know what you’re thinking, and no, arm-wrestling was not involved). Five brave SwirlNYC members gave four afternoons of their lives (and then some) to collectively developing an analysis on race, justice, and what it means to do something about it. Led by Jen Chau (Founder and Executive Director of Swirl) and Lynda Turet (former Managing Director of Swirl), we piloted a semester of learning called “SwirlCamp,” meant to serve as a boot camp for Swirl members ready to take their involvement to the next level. Our sessions ran the gamut of exploring structural racism to discussing the impact (or lack thereof) of having a black and multiracial president. We also sharpened our leadership skills through self-reflection and skill-building. Our purpose was simple: how do we make our collective need for community into a tool to change what has impacted us all–racism?
When all was said and done, there was no easy answer lurking beneath the articles, discussions, and conversations for how we collectively affected change. What we found instead was that racial injustice and how it continues to impact us individually and as a community is complex. The answers are equally complex. We knew there was some messed up stuff going on (people of color still get relegated to the worst schools, face barriers in getting good jobs, and suffer from the worst health outcomes. At the same time many profess that racism is over. I mean, our president is black, isn’t he?). We knew that the drive for an identity community (Swirl) was driven by that messed up stuff. But what did it mean for a community of people who have been drawn together by the messed-up-ness, to do something about it? What was our unique niche to fill in the world of activism?
We discovered that there isn’t just one answer, rather, there are many. Each of us was driven by different interests in the work, had a different axe to grind, and thus a different seed to plant for how things could be different. The culmination of our learning is captured in the following articles we wanted to share with the Swirl community, and beyond topics that tickled our fancy. They are meant to be fire-starters– sparking conversations, learning, and hell, even arm wrestling matches (friendly ones only, of course). The first is an exploration of structural racism in the education system. The second is about the 2010 census and how and why people of color need to get counted right, and the third is about the complexity of race through a multicultural immigrant experience.
We hope these spark your reactions, dialogue, and exploration for how Swirl can catalyze a more complex and constructive dialogue on race. We look forward to your comments!
Jeff Garrett and