Here is a personal sharing from one of our trainee facilitators:
The world is changing, and the way I see myself in the world is changing too. Like most people I have been shocked and appalled by the killings of unarmed black men by the police in America. I am typing this post on ‘I have a dream’ day, marking the anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Juniors legendary speech in 1963. I listened to his speech again today, and as a global community we still have a long way to go before his dream is a reality. Two of my closest friends are women of colour. I have always thought that not being a racist was enough. I’ve been listening and learning and I know now that it is essential that I become anti-racist if I want to see real system change. Real change takes a long time, and it feels like the time is now. In the past, if I heard people telling racist jokes, or using racist slurs, I would think ‘They are not my people,’ and I chose to limit the time I spent with them, but I would never call it out. My own family hold racist stereotypes, even though we have people of colour in our family. I have learned that in staying silent, I am complicit in racism. I have been unpacking my unconscious bias; it is deeply uncomfortable, but my discomfort is a drop in the ocean to the discomfort that people of colour have to endure throughout their lives. I see it as my responsibility as someone who works with parents and families from different cultures, to be aware of my white privilege and to use it to help those who do not benefit from it. It is up to those of us who hold white privilege, to use that privilege to dismantle systems that benefit us, and are not equal for everyone.
During my unlearning, I read an American study on adultification bias. Research concluded that adults view black girls as more adult like, and less innocent than white girls. Adults believe that black girls as young as five need less protection and nurturing than their white peers. I spoke to one of my black friends about this and she agreed that she had experienced this growing up in the UK. I am learning a lot about the issues that girls of colour may show up with in my Girls Journeying Together groups, but may not yet have the language to express. In girls’ group we guide the girls to embrace each other’s differences, and learn from each other, and to see that although we are different, we always have something in common.
I can see how important it is for girls of colour to see men and women with the same skin tones as them in positions of leadership, so that they have inspirational role models that they relate to, and aspire to be like them.
I am grateful to have taken this anti-racism journey, and to add it to my daily practise of becoming the change I wish to see in the world. I now have an understanding of why a black woman, or a woman of colour may not want to bring her daughter to a group that is held by a white woman. We have facilitators at Rites for Girls from different cultures and backgrounds and we need many more! I am eager to learn from the wisdom of many women, and I’m hoping they feel the call to do this work with girls, bringing it to their communities; and we can all join together as a Rites for Girls community seeking to make the lives of girls better. As you see, I also have a dream, and that dream is that girls from all walks of life, and all skin tones, know their worth and feel seen, heard, and valued… just as they are.