About Monthly Dialogues
We have been holding free monthly dialogues in the SF Bay Area since we began in 2011. At the monthly dialogues we dive deeper into a variety of topics related to gender(ed) oppression, white/light skin privilege and the work for racial justice. We ask that you come ready to speak from your personal relationship to this intersection. Each dialogue has a theme, and we send out sggested pre-readings that help create context for the discussion.
The goal of our dialogues, as with all of our work, is to explore and challenge internal and external barriers to showing up effectively in the movement for racial justice. In addition, the dialogues help us to manifest projects such as writing, actions, theater, and resource sharing. To support our own ability to remember and reflect on our discussions, as well as for a measure of transparency and accountability, notes from past dialogues are made public, though we do not include names.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: The openness of our dialogues has varied over time. Our dialogues were initially completely open to anyone interested. In Spring 2013, we gathered feedback from participants and changed the format. Dialogues then became invitation only in order to create a space that holds a shared understanding, deeper focus, and greater sense of accountability. Beginning in 2016, we have been evolving a hybrid between the two; we have some dialogues that are only by invitation and at least one dialogue a quarter that is more open and accessible. For invitation-only dialogues, invitations are given to participants of our workshops, special guests, and participants of all past dialogues. As a collective we occasionally make exceptions to this policy for folks new to the Bay Area or the White Noise Collective who have extensive experience in anti-oppression/anti-racist pedagogies and who have explored the intersection of race and gender in other settings. Before extending an invitation to someone who has not participated in a previous dialogue or workshop, we ask to have an in-person, email, or phone conversation. Please understand that occasionally our capacity limits our ability for individual conversations, especially on short notice, but we do our best to accommodate everyone interested in engaging in dialogue around the intersection of white privilege and gendered oppression. (Email us directly to start this process, or join our mailing list and indicate that you are new when RSVPing for a dialogue. Both our email and listserv signup are on the homepage, on the sidebar.) When we open our dialogues quarterly, we welcome anyone interested, and we include a bit more structure in the dialogue, including reviewing our agreements, giving a little background about the WNC, and occasionally offering a short infoshare to introduce the theme.
WHO PARTICIPATES: While much effective work that addresses privilege and oppression happens in caucuses (identity groups), the work of White Noise Collective is not caucus work. We aim to hold a space that respects participants who have come from a broad spectrum of racial and gender identities who gather to explore common patterns at the intersections of whiteness and femaleness. The majority of the participants thus far identify as experiencing the socialization of white and female, but all are welcome to be a part of the conversation. (Read more about our participation intentions here.)
CHILDCARE: We have two volunteers who have offered to help with childcare, pending availability. Please contact us as soon as you know you might need childcare so that we can contact our volunteers. Folks have occasionally brought little ones with them to dialogues, and this hasn’t been a problem.
DISABILITY AND ACCESS: In order to keep our dialogues free and financially accessible, we have our dialogues in the living rooms of our participants. Unfortunately, this means our dialogues are often in spaces that are not wheelchair accessible and are not scent free. As a collective, we are committed to continually exploring issues of access and disability, and strive to be as inclusive as possible. When you RSVP for the dialogue, please let us know about any access issues we can support. When we choose between the spaces offered for each dialogue, we will always identify the most accessible space possible, based on the needs of the participants, and include this information in the final details we send out. We are often able to solicit access to scent-free and wheelchair-accessible spaces when needed.
Over the years, we have explored many themes, including: internalized worthlessness, radical self-love, and how to not throw each other under the bus; violence and safety; white women tears; immigrant justice; intergenerational and intersectional feminism; eco-feminism and whiteness; cultural appropriation; ancestry and class; white women in helping professions; gender and sexuality’ difficult conversations (and communication patterns); witches; the psychology of racism; white motherhood; food justice; gentrification.. We are always trying to identify and explore new topics as well as digging deeper into ongoing conversations, and we welcome ideas.
We also have a tradition of always trying new things, especially in response to community feedback. In 2014 this included a “White Noisemaker” intensive dialogue series which offered more structure and support to participants who committed to attending and deepening together over 4 months. In 2015, we hosted quarterly dialogues for folks actively engaged in movement work and community organizing. In 2016, we had two dialogues that were dedicated book groups. This year, as mentioned above, we are creating a hybrid – open dialogues, invite-only dialogues, as well as another book group.
You can see a complete list of past themes in our notes from past dialogues section.
WNC Dialogue Practices/Agreements
As practices, these are meant to be practiced, not perfected. Dialogue is a space for practicing them, with the goal of building authentic trust, generating new ideas and preparing for liberatory action. They are inspired by Paulo Freire’s definition of “true dialogue” and 6 years of practice with the White Noise Collective.
- Speak from your own experience.
- Don’t assume about others’ lived experiences or identities. Seek understanding of each others’ experiences and ideas (and acknowledge that full understanding might be impossible).
- We learn best when we are uncomfortable.
- Privilege conditions us to expect comfort and to conflate comfort and safety (i.e. white fragility).
- We don’t learn when we are comfortable or when we are unsafe.
- We have to push ourselves into discomfort if we want to learn/unlearn.
- Strive for “Both/And”, let go of right and wrong, binary thinking.
- One person talks at a time.
- Expect and accept a lack of closure.
- Plan to leave with more questions than answers. Goal is to leave unsettled, with better tools and understandings, not to find the “right” way or all the answers.
- Move from certainty to curiosity.
- Understand the difference between intent and impact.
- Assume good intentions of others.
- Be accountable for your impact.
- Strive for balance between theory and lived experience.
- Make space for the personal, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic – simultaneously and intersectionally.
- Allow yourself to be both self-critical and self-loving.
- Be humble and horizontal – everyone in the room has something to learn and something to share. We are student-teachers and teacher-students.
- Facilitators are responsible for trying to get us where we’re going, but everyone brings knowledge.
- Facilitators are not experts. We create these spaces because we want to learn about these things.
- Stories Stay, Learning Leaves.
- Practice speaking and practice listening. Work especially on the one that is harder for you.
- Take care of yourself so you can stay present.
- Cultivate praxis; reflect – take action – reflect and act again.