CHEYENNE, Wyo.—Department of Family Services employees are getting training to help them better understand people of different nationalities and circumstances.
“We wanted something that would help our people think about the people we serve and what their life is like,” Director Rodger McDaniel said. “We need to be aware of how our feelings impact the way we deliver our services.”
McDaniel said the program is part of the agency’s shift of focus away from the needs of one child in a family and more on the family as a whole.
“If a child comes into our system, it is not good practice to focus on the needs of that child without focusing on the family dynamics,” he said.
The training, “Undoing Racism,” is conducted by The People’s Institute and results from the department’s partnership with Casey Family Programs.
“In Wyoming, there’s sort a sort of a sense that we don’t have a lot of racial diversity here, so it’s not a problem,” McDaniel said. “That’s not true when you look at the data.
“Considerably higher numbers of children of color fail to complete high school than Caucasian children. A disproportionate number of children of color are in out-of-home care. We need to understand why that’s happening.”
Brenden McKinney, director of Casey Family Programs here, said children are removed from black and American Indian homes at a rate four to five times higher than for white families.
Also, white children tend to remain in the state welfare system longer than minorities.
The People’s Institute
Our Experience has shown us that organizing skills alone are not sufficient to build the kinds of coalitions necessary for a broad-based movement for social change. The People’s Institute is committed to teaching organizing skills only in the context of the following principles:
Racism is the single most critical barrier to building effective coalitions for social change. Racism has been consciously and systematically erected, and it can be undone only if people understand what it is, where it comes from, how it functions, and why it is perpetuated.
Learning from History
History is our guide to the future and a tool for effective organizing. If we fail to learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it.
Culture is the life support system of a community. If a community’s culture is respected and nurtured, the community’s power will grow.
Internal Dynamics of Leadership Development
Grassroots leadership needs to be developed intentionally and systematically within local communities.
Accountability to the community is the key to organizing effectively and with integrity.
The growth of an effective broad-based movement for social change requires networking or “building a net that works”. As the movement develops a strong net, people are less likely to fall through.
Internalized Racial Oppression
Accepting and acting out the definition of self, given you by your oppressor, rooted in a race construct that had designated your race as the inferior race, or one of many inferior races. It is a multi generational disempowerment process manifested in many forms.
Internalized Racial Superiority
The accepting and acting out the definition of self, given you by your self, rooted in a race construct that designated your race as the superior race. It is a multi generational empowerment process that internalizes and often makes invisible to the designated superior race their white skin privilege.
Most of us who are organizers have come from the efforts that promoted “the down with the system” theory. Now many of us are the system. The position we hold is that of “gatekeeper” within institutions. The very nature of an institution is to have the position of gatekeeper to ensure that the institution perpetuates itself. When we understand our position as a gatekeeper from an anti-racist, anti-oppressive perspective and are in an accountable relationship with community, this position can serve as an important springboard from which institutional transformation can be generated.
Militarism must be recognized as applied racism. It is the force that maintains the current imbalance of power.