From SouthCoast Today! Unlearning Racism: Social justice, diversity in session for UMass Dartmouth teach-in

From SouthCoast Today

By Aimee Chiavaroliachiavaroli@s-t.com

UMASS DARTMOUTH — “If a parent read to you as a child, take one step forward,” said Pam Pollock, a racial justice counselor and consultant to the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts.

“If most of your teachers in school were a different skin color, take one step back.”

A group of about 55 people, mostly students, participated Wednesday in an “Unlearning Racism” workshop centered around privilege, racism and respect.

The session was broken into two parts from 2 to 4 p.m. as part of the university’s two-day teach-in revolving around social justice issues and diversity topics such as ableism, sexism, racism, LGBTQ issues, privilege, feminism and activism.

As part of a privilege walk, some stepped forward or moved back as certain questions applied to them, trying to keep their hands held together in the Grand Reading Room of the UMass Dartmouth Claire T Carney library.

“Myself, as a woman of color, my heart was already breaking,” Gail Fortes, executive director of the YWCA, told the room when Pollock asked what she the thought of the walk. “For the most part it hasn’t changed all the years we’ve been doing this activity.”

It wasn’t all about privilege or racism, but the facilitators brought the attendees through exercises as

seemingly basic as having conversations, listening and what it means to respect someone or feel disrespected.

Pollock advised both sides of the room to stand up, make eye contact with someone and move chairs to sit directly in front of each other. Those gathered were then told that one person should talk while the other onelistened, and then they were supposed to switch roles.

When Pollock asked for comment, Natalie Tessicini, a senior, said she and her partner for the activity found they didn’t think much about racism until coming to college.

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